CSU, Long Beach, News

Former Daily Forty-Niner journalist wins settlement from LA Sheriff’s Department

Los Angeles County awarded former Daily Forty-Niner photojournalist $90,000 in damages in lawsuit against LA Sheriff’s Department over an arrest in 2020.

Pablo Unzueta, 28, former Long Beach State student and professional photojournalist, agreed to a settlement on his lawsuit on Sept. 19 with the county of Los Angeles. The lawsuit over first amendment violations was filed against the sheriff and sheriff’s department according to a press release by Unzueta’s lawyer, Susan Seager, 66.

Seager and Unzueta filed the lawsuit relating to an incident when Unzueta was photographing the protest of a Black man who was killed by LA police in August on Sept. 8, 2020.

Seager said law enforcement ordered the protesters to evacuate the area and that Unzueta had been in compliance when he was arrested. However, the court document submitted by Seager, stated that “failure to disperse” was the charge brought against him and other people arrested at that time.

“Everyone ran from the police, including Pablo,” Seager said. “He ran, everyone ran, and they were being chased by the deputies.”

Seager said 16 people were arrested blocks away from the protest.

Allegations brought against LASD in the court documents include illegal arrest, strip searching, illegal confiscation of property as well as an illegal search of Unzueta’s devices, which he had with him at the protest.

Unzueta said the protest was dispersing because the sheriff’s department was “firing projectiles,” and that he continued to photograph the event as he was running.

“Essentially the sheriffs were like really persistent even though the protest already dispersed, so they followed us about six blocks up,” Unzueta said.

Unzueta said that he tried to identify himself as a journalist and not a protester but that he was arrested anyway.

“I was kind of very vocal about me being a journalist,” Unzueta said.

Unzueta said that the officers still put him in the truck and his phone and camera were taken away. All of his photography from the protest was lost when his camera was returned without the memory card.

Unzueta and Seager agreed to the settlement two years after the arrest and unlawful seizure following the protest.

“One reason we agreed to a settlement [was so] Pablo could move on with his life,” Seager said.

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