Kirk Tsonos captures photo of police brutality during arrest, leading to excessive force lawsuit

Published by Dan SW


Photography by Kirk Tsonos / FWDSET, All Rights Reserved

A photograph of police brutality by Los Angeles photographer Kirk Tsonos / FWDSET has lead to a lawsuit for excessive force against the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD). Tsonos captured the photograph while being arrested for attending a protest in support of Black Lives Matter on June 2nd. The photo depicts the aftermath of a homeless man having been struck in the head by a direct shot from a rubber bullet.

From the original FWDSET post on Instagram:

As I was being arrested for my second day in a row during peaceful protests in support of Black Lives Matter, I decided to continue taking photos until the moment right before handcuffs were put on me. Very risky, but a necessary move to expose LAPD's entirely inexcusable use of aggressive force, especially in the moments before mass arrests of peaceful [protesters].

As we were being boxed in on Broadway & 5th Street to be arrested, LAPD decided that a completely unarmed homeless man in a wheelchair that had NOTHING to do with our protest was somehow a threat. They proceeded to inappropriately shoot "non-lethal" rounds directly at his face, which is against the proper procedure for firing rubber bullets.

The last image is exceptionally heart-breaking for me as you can visibly see the homeless man writhing in pain, screaming, as he spews blood from his face moments after getting shot.

When people want to be apathetic or inactive in fighting against police brutality against black individuals, make them realize this trickles over & can affect them or someone they love too, regardless if they're black or not.

This is completely unacceptable. This injustice needs to be held accountable. Expose this.

The man, named Charf Lloyd, was in the area of the protest at the time of the police action, but not part of the protest. As a result of the publication and distribution of the photo, criminal justice activists and advocates for the homeless including the Los Angeles chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, Black Lives Matter, and Los Angeles Community Action Network have filed a lawsuit against the city for excessive force.

Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) spokesperson Josh Rubenstein has confirmed that the incident is now the subject of an Internal Affairs investigation, and has urged anyone who believes they were the victim of police misconduct to contact Internal Affairs or the Office of the Inspector General.

We spoke to Tsonos about his experiences with the protests:

What would you say to young people who are convinced that nothing they do can make a difference?

I would say they couldn't be more wrong. A common complaint I've heard from naysayers, & sometimes protesters themselves, is that they feel protesting doesn't do anything.

In Los Angeles alone, a mixture of our protesting & the overnight international viral exposure of my photos led to pressuring mayor Eric Garcetti to announce lifting the city-wide curfew, redirecting $150 million of LAPD's $3 billion annual funds to support black communities, the National [Guard] pulling out of LA, all charges/fines dropped against peaceful [protesters] that were arrested, & lawmakers developing bills that will no longer allow the use of rubber bullets or tear gas by law enforcement on its own citizens. And that's just the beginning.

Mass arrest at Los Angeles protest

Mass arrest at Los Angeles Protest, photo by Kirk Tsonos / FWDSET

Can you comment on any of the disinformation or talking points that are painting these protests as somehow invalid?

I'd say the biggest disinformation that is going around is the constant portrayal that [protesters] are "rioters & looters", especially perpetuated by the mainstream media. I've been out at these protests consistently for almost a week straight, sometimes up to 10 hours a day, & it is undeniable that the mass majority of protesting is peaceful. It's estimated that only about 5% of those arrested at LA protests are rioting/looting. I'd even argue to say there hasn't been a single case of rioting/looting in the past week here in [Down Town Los Angeles].

Most, if not all of the aggression, has been started by law enforcement. Specifically antagonizing, using excessive force, & unjustifiably beating or shooting "non-lethal" rounds at peaceful [protesters].

That being said, I'd also like to add that in the history of US, there has rarely been any radical change made without violence, rioting, &/or looting accompanying it. I don't condone violence, but when violence is the only language the oppressor understands, sometimes you have to speak that language for them to listen.

Tsonos has set up a GoFundMe to cover Lloyd's expenses, and has included updates from his case worker. Additionally, Tsonos is donating all sales of the usage rights for the photo (to news agencies) to a Black Lives Matter organization or charity, and has requested that everyone sharing his photo please include his photo credit, in order to guarantee that news agencies know who to contact to purchase usage rights.