Austin, Texas, police have launched an investigation into why officers fired “less-lethal” beanbag munition at a crowd transporting an injured man.
Justin Howell, a 20-year-old student at Texas State University, was protesting George Floyd’s death outside police headquarters a little after 11 p.m. on May 31, Austin Police Department Chief Brian Manley said in a news conference posted on social media.
A protester who was standing next to Howell hurled a water bottle and a bag at the police officers, the chief said. In response, one officer fired beanbag rounds at the demonstrator but struck Howell in the head instead, according to Manley.
Howell suffered a fractured skull and brain damage, Joshua Howell, the victim’s brother, told CNN.
Once Howell fell to the ground, some in the crowd picked him up and officers directed them to take him to police headquarters, according to Manley.
But the crowd was fired upon as they neared the building, the chief said.
“It’s reported that they were fired upon with less-lethal munitions as they brought this victim towards the officers to get him medical help,” he added.
Manley said a police investigation into the incident is underway and police are also trying to identify the officer who first fired at Howell.
A video posted on Twitter captured the encounter.
When reached by CNN, police said there are no updates in the investigation.
Recovery will be a ‘marathon, not a sprint,’ doctors say
Texas State University President Denise M. Trauth released a statement shortly after Howell’s injury.
“Black lives matter,” Trauth said in the statement. “It is not debatable at Texas State. Justin Howell’s life matters. Black lives matter in our classrooms, on our campuses, and in the streets during tumultuous protests. They matter every moment of every day, no exceptions, no debate.”
In a column for The Battalion, Texas A&M University’s student newspaper, Joshua Howell said doctors have told the family that recovery will be “a marathon, not a sprint.”
Howell remains in critical condition, Joshua Howell told CNN.
“These quote-unquote less-lethal rounds, these beanbag rounds, are only less lethal by technicality,” he said. “We really shouldn’t take too much comfort in that language and we shouldn’t take too much comfort in their use.”