A black college student has been critically injured after police shot him in the head with a beanbag round during a protest in Austin, Texas. After having suffered a fractured skull and brain damage, Justin Howell has been sedated and is in critical condition. “Doctors anticipate that when he wakes up, he will have difficulty telling his left from his right,” his brother, Joshua Howell wrote in The Battalion, the Texas A&M University publication.
A video shows police shooting beanbags at volunteer paramedics carrying Howell’s body out of harm’s way.
*Trigger Warning—Graphic Content*
Volunteer protest paramedic, Maredith Michael shared photos of what her hands looked like after the police shot at her as she moved Howell’s body to get medical attention.
“I had my hands in the air, I begged for them to help, they said ‘bring him over here,’” she wrote on Facebook. “I told them that his head injury was too severe, he was convulsing and unable to move, that I needed their help. ‘You’re going to need to bring him here.’”
She wrote that the police didn’t stop shooting at them:
“Several guys started to carry him, I was clearing the path, with my hands up (crossed wrists, our signal that I was volunteering for the medical tent across the street).”
“They started to fire into the crowd, and shot my hands, from no more than 3 feet away. I don’t remember falling to the ground, injuring my shoulder, hip, and neck. I woke up to what seemed like the relentless sound of these “less lethal” bean bags… And my own screaming.”
“Just so you know, I had been there 2 full days. With one of my firefighter shirts on that I sewed a huge red and white medical cross on the front and back of. I had red and white crosses taped on my helmet. They knew I was a medic.”
“I begged them to help the young man, I begged them to help me… But they just continued to fire these ‘less lethal’ bean bags into the crowd. They told me to back off, they told me to move the fuck away.”
In Joshua’s story on The Battalion, he thanked the paramedics and criticized the officers for shooting at the group who were trying to save his brother. “It’s unclear whether the officers who shot at the protesters were the same ones who gave them the order to approach,” he wrote. “But at minimum, it takes a special kind of incompetence to fire at those who are doing as the police tell them. At minimum, it shows a complete inability to be aware of your surroundings and to manage the situation appropriately.”
Police have deemed beanbag ammunition to be “less lethal” even though Howell and Brad Ayala, a 16-year-old boy have both sustained life-threatening injuries at Austin protests.
The department apologized to both the injured boys and said they were not specifically aiming at Howell. “That is not what we set out to do as a police department,” Austin police Chief Brian Manley said, per the Statesman. “That was not what we set out to do this weekend.”
The response wasn’t convincing for Howell’s brother, who demands that the police be held accountable for their actions. “These ‘less-lethal’ munitions are only ‘less-lethal’ by technicality,” he wrote. “My brother’s condition shows what can happen when you fire them into a crowd.”
source: complex.com BYTARA C. MAHADEVAN