Jan. 6 Protester Sues Police Officer Over Baton Strike to the Head

Jan. 6 Protester Sues Police Officer Over Baton Strike to the Head
In this image from video, David Alan Blair, indicated by a red square, confronts law enforcement officers in Washington on Jan. 6, 2021. (Metropolitan Police Department via The Epoch Times)
Zachary Stieber
6/5/2023
Updated:
6/5/2023
0:00

A Maryland man who admitted to hitting a police officer with a stick on Jan. 6, 2021, has sued the officer and the police department in Washington, alleging that those parties violated his constitutional rights.

Officer Kevin Peralta struck David Alan Blair in the head once and elsewhere multiple times. Despite that the strikes were illegal, no officers nearby moved to intervene, according to the lawsuit. Instead, several others also struck Blair with their batons, and one later falsely reported that no officer hit Blair in the head.

Blair suffered head lacerations and other injuries and experienced severe headaches and memory loss.

The actions by the officers “constituted the use of excessive, unnecessary, and unreasonable force,” the suit states.

The actions violated the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment, the suit alleges.

The litigation was filed in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia earlier this year and moved to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on June 1.

Blair is seeking damages in the amount of $750,000 and attorney’s fees.

“MPD does not comment on pending litigation,” a spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD), Washington’s police agency, told The Epoch Times in an email.

Circumstances Leading to Conflict

Blair, 26, left his home in Clarksburg around 3 p.m. on Jan. 6 and drove to Washington. He wanted to exercise his First Amendment rights and did not know that the U.S. Capitol had been breached, according to the suit.

After arriving in Washington about an hour later, Blair walked toward the Capitol and reached the West Lawn without encountering any signs or barriers indicating not to go there.

Metropolitan Police Department officers in a line began to move across the lawn. The officers, wearing riot gear and carrying metal batons, chanted, “Move back.”

Blair was confused, he said.

“He moved back initially when the line approached. But then he decided that he should stay where he was since he thought he had a right to be there and to exercise his First Amendment rights of speech and assembly,” the suit states.

Blair began walking around with a Confederate flag, which had been attached to an aluminum lacrosse stick. According to a stipulation that Blair signed, he shouted, “Quit backing up, don’t be scared, we’re Americans.”

Peralta shoved Blair, the parties agree, prompting Blair to hit the officer with the stick.

“Heavily clad in a protective riot suit, the contact did not harm the officer or inflict an injury. Yet Officer Peralta immediately responded with deadly force, swinging the baton overhand with all of his strength at the plaintiff’s head and striking his skull,” the suit states.

That deadly force goes against MPD policies, but none of the officers intervened; instead, several joined in the fray, according to Blair. He said he tried to defend himself as officers struck him a dozen times.

Blair was taken by ambulance to George Washington University Hospital with head lacerations, which were caused by the officers. He was also diagnosed with a concussion and suffered a number of symptoms, including nausea, severe headaches, and trouble speaking. That necessitated that he take time off of work.

Prosecutors have corroborated that Blair was injured and was in the hospital for multiple days, but appeared to excuse the law enforcement actions in light of Blair’s conduct.

“No one else around him—rioters, that is—are defying police the way he is,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Liebman said during a hearing in 2022, WUSA-TV reported. “He appears to be the only one. And, again, he encouraged others to do the same.”

Guilty Plea

On March 29, 2022, Blair pleaded guilty to interfering with a law enforcement officer during civil disorder.

Blair was illegally on the Capitol lawn after the Capitol was breached and interfered with Peralta and other officers as they sought to clear the crowd from the lawn, according to the guilty plea, which caused other charges to be dropped.

He was sentenced on July 13, 2022, to five months in prison followed by 18 months of supervised release. He also was ordered to pay $2,000 in restitution.

During his sentencing hearing, Blair said he went to Washington owing to the removal of Confederate statues around the United States in recent years.

“I’m tired of our history being erased in this country,” Blair said, WUSA-TV reported.

U.S. District Judge Christopher Cooper, the Obama appointee who sentenced Blair, said Blair was “provocative.”

“I think there are different interpretations as to how you were positioned relative to that police line that was coming forward trying just to do their jobs, but you stood up against them, and you squared off, and you mouthed off, and you cross-checked the guy, right?” Cooper said. “And that’s an offense, and that’s a felony offense.”

A previous suit, filed by Victoria White, alleged similar constitutional violations but was dismissed without prejudice at White’s request to give her more time to prepare for her criminal trial. Surveillance video showed an officer pummeling White; prosecutors said there were “many possible lawful justifications” for the use of force.
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