Six USC students successfully passed a lawsuit against the Los Angeles Police Department on Wednesday after a 2013 incident in which LAPD officers allegedly raided an off-campus party and used excessive force against the mostly-black attendees. The settlement for $450,000 was approved by LA City Council according to the Los Angeles Times.
Around 2 a.m. on May 4, 2013, LAPD responded to a noise complaint at a student end-of-semester party with 79 police officers. The house around 23rd and Hoover streets was apparently targeted because it was hosting a predominantly black party. Attendees alleged a party across the street was left unabated because it was predominantly white, the Los Angeles Times stated. Six students were arrested, and one police officer was injured during the course of the shutdown.
Jessica Flores, who was a freshman majoring in communication in 2013, witnessed the events on May 4, and told the Daily Trojan that the force used against students was excessive.
“It was a completely innocent party. Just a bunch of people getting together celebrating and the fact that there was a white party across the street and they didn’t say anything to that party — I think that’s wrong and present-day racism,” Flores said.
The Monday after the incident, more than 100 students staged a sit-in protest in solidarity with the party attendees. The same day, Vice President for Student Affairs Michael Jackson offered to work alongside students to settle any wrongdoing.
“We have heard from many students who are upset with the events of early Saturday morning at an off-campus party,” Jackson said in a statement. “We understand their concern and are working closely with them, and commit ourselves to doing all we can to ensure respectful treatment of [students] at peaceful social gatherings.”
The day after the protest, an LAPD-DPS forum at was held on USC for students to voice their experiences. The Ronald Tutor Campus Center Ballroom reached its 750-person capacity and 200 people had to be turned away. The event opened with a compilation of videos recorded by attendees of the May 4 party, which showed students being handcuffed by police. In one video, a female student is shown crying as she is handcuffed on the ground.
Four days after the initial event, on Wednesday, May 8, President C. L. Max Nikias weighed in on the incident.
“I had complete confidence in my leaders as they fully briefed me in advance on their discussions with student leaders and the plan for last night’s forum,” Nikias said in a statement. “I was pleased that there was an opportunity for an open dialogue and for people to express concerns.”
LAPD launched an investigation into the matter, but found that police officers’ reaction was justified since the party was re-started after it was shut down, according to the Los Angeles Times. Yet, several students continued with a lawsuit alleging excessive force and racial bias by LAPD officers. In June 2016, jurors found that several officers did use excessive force and did not have probable cause for arrests, yet the jury did not find officers acting on racial bias.