Isaac Scher and other protesters had squared off against a line of Los Angeles police officers in Echo Park late Wednesday night when he heard a police commander give the order to advance.
As the officers lurched forward in unison, Scher said the cop opposite him lashed out with baton strikes that seemed fueled by “a blind fury that was horrifying.”
They were like “baseball bat swings,” Scher alleged in an interview with The Times on Thursday. “Full windup, as if it were a 70 mph fastball down the middle.”
The broken arm Scher suffered was a rare injury on a largely peaceful night that saw hundreds of officers in riot gear deployed to help disperse a crowd of protesters who had gathered in opposition to a city order aimed at clearing a large homeless encampment from around Echo Park Lake.
For much of the night, officers stood around idle as the protesters chanted in support of the rights of the homeless. Later, officers formed a skirmish line across Glendale Avenue and began a slow march south, stopping and starting suddenly. An officer on a loudspeaker declared the protest unlawful, ordering people to leave.
There were isolated moments of trouble: Protesters alleged some roughness by officers along the line, while protesters sent up occasional fireworks. One officer fired a single hard foam projectile during a brief scuffle and a few water bottles were tossed in the direction of officers. The violent clashes that have erupted at recent L.A. protests did not materialize.
The officer who struck Scher used a level of force far beyond that of the other officers on the skirmish line, Scher and other protesters said. Several protesters screamed angrily that someone’s arm had been broken — without any immediate reaction from the police commanders on scene.
On Thursday, Scher, a 24-year-old researcher and writer who lives close to the park, took to Twitter to say their claims were true.
“Can confirm that a baton-wielding cop broke my arm last night,” Scher tweeted, along with a picture of an X-ray of his arm and another of him in a cast and sling.
Scher shared medical records with The Times showing his Wednesday night admission to Good Samaritan Hospital and his diagnosis: a “traverse fracture through the distal ulna.” He said the emergency room doctor who treated him called it a “classic case of nightstick fracture” — a term doctors use for the sort of injury sustained by someone raising their forearm to block a blow from cops.
Scher said he had been out in the park to defend the unhoused people whose encampment was being threatened by a city order issued Wednesday that the park must be cleared within 24 hours. He said the park closure symbolized a broader “stigmatization of poverty in a neighborhood that is increasingly gentrifying.”
Scher said a young protester beside him who had been shouting insults at the officer was also struck. Scher said he received a single blow to the arm and “immediately recoiled [and] stumbled away” before being taken to the hospital by other protesters he didn’t know.
After The Times inquired about Scher’s broken arm Thursday, Capt. Stacy Spell, an LAPD spokesman, said the department had not been aware of Scher’s injury and had launched an investigation to “get to the bottom of the facts.”
Det. Eduardo Gonzalez of the department’s Force Investigation Division said no one in his division had heard of the incident either.
Before The Times’ inquiry, the LAPD on Thursday morning released a statement saying it had received two reports about minor force used by officers, but none alleging injuries.