Woman sues Portland, 2 cops over iconic pepper-spraying

The Associated Press /

PORTLAND — The Portland woman in an iconic photograph that shows her on the receiving end of a stream of police-issued pepper spray filed a lawsuit Friday against two officers and the city.

The complaint accuses two Portland police officers — Doris Paisley and Jeffrey McDaniel — of using excessive force against 21-year-old Liz Nichols, who was arrested Nov. 17 during an Occupy Portland-related protest, The Oregonian reported.

Nichols’ attorneys said she followed officers’ instructions, but that Paisley pushed her nightstick against Nichols’ throat, and when she protested, McDaniel sprayed her. Nichols is seeking $155,000 in the lawsuit.

“Ms. Nichols suffered excruciating and incapacitating pain in her eyes, nose and mouth,” according to the complaint. “She was so overcome by pain that she could not stand or remain upright on her knees. After the initial shock, she continued to experience excruciating pain, nausea and difficulty breathing.”

The moment was captured in an award-winning photograph by The Oregonian’s Randy L. Rasmussen. It is attached to the complaint as Exhibit A.

Portland police declined to comment and referred all questions to the city attorney’s office. A representative of the city attorney’s office said it hadn’t been served with the suit and couldn’t comment.

The complaint accuses the officers of using excessive force and violating Nichols’ free speech rights. It also accuses the city of Portland of battery and violating her rights by condoning the use of pepper spray in peaceful protests.

“Pepper spray should not be used for crowd-control issues for peaceful protesters,” attorney Kenneth Kreuscher told the paper. “Pepper spray is a serious use of force.”

Portland police policy states, “Pepper mace may be used, at the member’s discretion, when persons display the intent to use or engage in violent, aggressive actions or offer physical resistance, (not to include passive resistance).”

The policy also states, “Pepper spray may be used in passive resistance situations only when authorized by an incident commander as part of a crowd control strategy.”

Nichols is charged with failing to obey lawful orders from police. But her attorneys said they’re not sure what lawful orders she disobeyed.

“All she was doing was shouting at police,” said Benjamin Haile, another of Nichols’ lawyers.