LINCOLN, Neb. – Today, the Lincoln City Council approved a settlement agreement with a Lincoln woman who was severely injured by a law enforcement officer during a 2020 protest.
The approval marks an end to Elise Poole’s federal civil rights lawsuit, which alleged that untrained law enforcement officers used excessive force by indiscriminately shooting impact munitions at peaceful demonstrators. The American Civil Liberties Union of Nebraska joined with Fraser Stryker PC LLO to bring the case.
The lawsuit focused on a May 2020 gathering in Lincoln, one of hundreds of racial justice protests across the country sparked by the murder of George Floyd. When officers used impact munitions and chemical agents on people gathered in civil disobedience of a curfew, one of the projectiles struck Poole and severed her nose from her face. The traumatic injury required emergency reconstructive surgery. Poole will need future procedures to regain breathing functionality.
In the approved settlement agreement, the City of Lincoln agreed to provide Poole with damages to close the case, specifying that the agreement does not serve as a legal admission of wrongdoing.
The 20-year-old Lincoln resident said she hopes her lawsuit and the settlement will impact how officers respond to future protests.
“If my case protects just one other person from going through what I experienced, it was worth it,” Poole said. “Our protest was about protecting Black lives and calling out police violence. Those messages are just as important today and I hope my case plays a small role in making our city safer for everyone.”
Daniel Gutman, a contract attorney litigating the case for the ACLU of Nebraska, said the lawsuit achieved its goals.
"We wanted to hold law enforcement accountable and make sure Elise was fully compensated for the harm she suffered," Gutman said. "We are pleased that her case has ended in a fair agreement. Elise was severely injured while exercising her First Amendment right to free speech and assembly. Law enforcement must understand, and this lawsuit shows, that our constitutional rights must be respected.”
Poole’s case is the second protest rights case successfully settled by the ACLU of Nebraska in the last two years. In early 2021, the civil rights organization reached a settlement agreement with the City of Omaha in a case challenging the Omaha Police Department’s use of chemical agents and a mass arrest.