Man shot in the groin with pepper ball at Trump protest suing Phoenix
PHOENIX – The man shot in the groin with a non-lethal weapon by police during a protest outside a 2017 Phoenix appearance by President Donald Trump intends to sue the city.
Joshua Cobin told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Friday that seeing Facebook posts by police officers that mocked the incident pushed him to file a precursor to a lawsuit this week.
The posts were in the news after this week’s release of the Plain View Project, a database of public Facebook activity by current and former police personnel in eight cities, including Phoenix.
The project’s website says the posts and comments selected were related to “race, religion, ethnicity and the acceptability of violent policing” and “could undermine public trust and confidence in police.”
Cobin said he’d been preparing the lawsuit for a while but was motivated to move ahead by the contents of the database.
He said he found “three current officers along with many former officers who had made malicious, mocking posts about a citizen they’re supposed to be protecting and serving.”
The Chandler resident, who lived in Scottsdale at the time of the Trump rally, said he was “nauseous” to learn he was a subject of some posts.
“After I saw that, and seeing how officers who are supposed to protect and serve are mocking a private citizen on their public social media accounts, that really just galvanized me to file it,” he said.
In August 2017, police breaking up anti-Trump protesters near the Phoenix Convention Center shot Cobin with pepper balls in his back and groin.
Cobin, wearing a gas mask, was caught on video kicking a tear gas canister back at police moments before the pepper ball hit him in the groin.
“I don’t deny that I committed a crime,” he said. “But the level of force that was used was excessive and malicious and done to humiliate me.”
Cobin, who admitted to being “unruly” during the protest, was among a handful of protesters arrested that night. He said he paid a $1,300 fine and picked up trash for community service after pleading guilty to disorderly conduct.
He said the lawsuit — which names the city, Police Chief Jeri Williams and four officers as defendants — goes beyond the damages he suffered from the pepper ball shot.
“This is about First Amendment rights,” he said. “This is about my rights to free speech, my right to be there — that was violated.
“I was also shoved with riot shields prior to that. So the police were fighting and pushing and hurting other civilians way before that.”
Cobin plans to represent himself in court and let a jury decide how much he should be awarded.
KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Mac & Gaydos and Peter Samore contributed to this report.