One man’s eye “exploded” and another lost eight teeth during the riotous celebration of the LA Lakers NBA championship Sunday, with police now under fire for their aggressive response to the unrest outside the Staples Center, according to a report.
The injuries were among several reported due to the Los Angeles Police Department’s continued use of “hard-foam” projectiles to quell riots, a controversial tactic that critics say has left demonstrators with bloodied eyes, head wounds and damaged testicles, the LA Times reported.
On Sunday, at least three people were hospitalized with head wounds, including 25-year-old Manuel Barrientos, a part-time photographer who lost eight teeth and part of his lip when he was shot in the mouth, the Times said.
“He turned around, stepped out into the street to take a picture with his camera, and that’s when he felt something hit him,” his brother, Jose Meza, told the outlet. “When he looked down, he saw a little piece of his lip on the floor and he was dripping blood from his mouth.”
Another man, a 34-year-old who declined to be identified, told the paper he “was completely blindsided” when the hard-foam bullet slammed him in the face, leaving a gash across his right cheek and a fractured bone around his right eye.
William Gonzalez, 22, was among the most severely injured in the post-title tumult when his eye socket was shattered and his tear duct ripped apart, likely costing him his right eye.
“My brother … grabbed me and said, ‘Run!’ because they were still shooting,” his brother, Michael recalled.
“I kept hearing my name getting called out and I was running to the voice,” he said. “It wasn’t that far, but with people running everywhere it made it hard for me to find him.”
“I immediately took off my Lakers jersey to put on his eye to support it and stop it from bleeding, but it wasn’t helping at all,” Michael Gonzalez said. “The shirt was full of blood.”
The LAPD’s policy for use of the projectiles calls for them to be fired only at individuals who represent a threat to cops and are not to be fired above the belt-line or anyone fleeing the police.
But according to an LA Times investigation, police continued to ignore the guidelines during protests and demonstrations this summer — and despite pending lawsuits and legal settlements with individuals injured by the projectiles.
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