CLEVELAND (WJW) – It’s a lawsuit more than two years in the making. A Cleveland man says his civil rights were violated during a 2020 Black Lives Matter protest downtown. 

The plaintiff says a sheriff’s deputy shot him in the head with a projectile while he was passing out water during a peaceful demonstration. Now, he’s suing Cuyahoga County.

“I was standing right over there by that slab of concrete on top of that hill when you could see that the police just started the force,” said Conor O’Boyle.

O’Boyle says he and some friends attended the May 30, 2020 Black Lives Matter demonstration in downtown Cleveland days after the murder of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer.

“We were down here passing out water and food, you know, granola bars, fruit to protesters,” he said.

He says, all of a sudden, the protest against police brutality in front of the justice center turned into chaos.

“The cops started pushing and shoving and then, all of a sudden, you hear explosions. It was like a war zone and it was terrifying,” said O’Boyle.

O’Boyle says it sounded like bombs were going off and he saw sheriff’s deputies, who were guarding the justice center, throw tear gas canisters at protesters.

“So we were giving water to try and wash their faces off and I passed out a couple of water bottles. I turned around with my hands in the air and I got shot in the back of the head by a projectile,” he said.

O’Boyle and his attorney say the projectile was either a tear gas canister or a bean bag.

They filed a lawsuit against Cuyahoga County, the county executive, sheriff and a couple of sheriff’s deputies.

“A lot of it is about the training too and holding the county accountable for how the officers were trained and how they were supposed to come out that day and what they were supposed to do and what they weren’t supposed to do,” said attorney Daniel Shields.

“I had a pretty good laceration on the back of my head. I got two staples and they took me in an ambulance to St. Vincent and I had a cut on this arm too that was treated. Whatever hit me in the head broke in two and the other half hit my left arm which was up in the air,” said O’Boyle.

The plaintiff and his attorney say the lawsuit is about more than money.

“I would hope to pay for my ambulance ride and my medical bills first and foremost, but also I would like to see the over-arching theme being a change in how police, police the streets,” O’Boyle said.

“He’s not seeking a lot of money, but he’s seeking justice in the community. So the community can see, look, if you’re going to do this, if you’re going to shoot somebody in a peaceful protest, you’re going to be held accountable,” said Shields.

The suit was first filed in the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas court, but Monday it was transferred to federal court.

FOX 8 reached out to Cuyahoga County officials about the lawsuit, but a spokesman said they had no comment.