LINCOLN, Neb. – Today, the ACLU of Nebraska filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court on behalf of Elise Poole, a Lincoln woman who sustained severe injuries after an officer fired a projectile that struck her face from close range during a May protest.
The complaint lists the City of Lincoln, Lancaster County, former Lincoln Police Chief Jeffrey Bliemeister, Lancaster County Sheriff Terry Wagner and two unidentified officers as defndants. The lawsuit argues officers’ indiscriminate and excessive force violated the constitutional rights of Poole and others who were gathered in peaceful protest and not posing any safety threat.
The litigation centers around a protest on May 31, 2020, part of the national outcry following George Floyd’s killing. At 12th and H, officers in riot gear used pepper balls and tear gas on a group that was peacefully protesting police brutality in civil disobedience of a curfew. An officer shot Poole with an impact munition, severing her nose from her face. The traumatic injury required emergency reconstructive surgery.
ACLU of Nebraska Legal Director Adam Sipple said the lawsuit seeks to hold law enforcement accountable, vindicate Poole’s rights and ensure she is fully compensated for the harm she suffered.
“Officers traumatized Elise and every other peaceful protester at that scene in an outrageous violation of their rights,” Sipple said. “It was never justified, and it was never acceptable. We brought this lawsuit because we share Elise’s conviction that we need to make sure this never happens again. There’s no way for this community to move forward toward justice without accountability.”
Today’s filing marks the ACLU of Nebraska’s first lawsuit challenging the Lincoln law enforcement response to 2020’s racial justice demonstrations. It comes a month after the civil rights organization successfully reached a settlement agreement in an Omaha protesters’ rights case. The Omaha agreement binds Omaha Police to a two-year agreement with provisions related to use of chemical agents and mass arrests.
The ACLU of Nebraska filed a tort claim on Elise’s behalf last summer with Fraser Stryker PC LLO. Firm attorney Daniel Gutman is serving as co-counsel on this case.