AUSTIN (KXAN) — One man involved in demonstrations in downtown Austin over the weekend is in critical condition following an incident with police, according to Austin Police Chief Brian Manley.
Around 11 p.m. Sunday, a 20-year-old man, recording with a phone, was hit in the back of the head by a less lethal round, Manley says. The incident was captured on downtown Austin’s HALO camera system — which is designed for APD to monitor potential events in the downtown district.
Manley says a person next to the victim reportedly threw a water bottle at officers near the stairs of APD headquarters. The person was subsequently seen throwing a backpack toward the officers. At that moment, Manley says one of the officers fired a less-lethal round and it hit the victim instead.
Manley believes the victim hit his head as he fell.
“I’m crushed. I’ve cried a few times. One (person), at least, is fighting for their life,” Manley said during a Monday news conference. “This is not what we set out to do this weekend. It’s tough right now. This is something we are taking very seriously.”
A second protester was also seriously injured by another, less-than-lethal round, according to Manley. APD is opening investigations into several incidents of officers injuring protesters in Austin.
Manley says they’re also investigating an incident where an African American woman, who is pregnant, was reportedly hit with a less-than-lethal round to her belly. The woman was brought to police headquarters and was assisted by medical and APD personnel.
Austin police said officers arrested almost 30 people related to protests in the past 24 hours on charges including burglary, theft, interference with public duties, graffiti, engaging in organized crime, assault and participating in a riot.
Manley says there will not be a curfew in Austin at this time, but leaders will continue to evaluate the situation. Manley is expected to brief Austin City Council on Thursday regarding APD’s response to the protests.
Fifteen officers were treated for minor injuries during the weekend events. One officer was transported for stitches, according to Manley. He says officers did not fire any live rounds.
‘My heart is with you,’
Chief Manley said injuries were not what police officers were trying to do this weekend.
“We were trying to ensure space for our community to come out and practice their protected speech; their First Amendment rights to speak out about these issues that we know are so important right now,” Manley said. “And, so, it’s tough right now.”
When Chief Manley was asked, “What would you say to the families of the victims?” it landed on him hard.
“What I say to you now is that my heart is with you…” He stopped speaking for a moment and turned his head away. “I am praying for your child and I hope they have a complete and quick recovery and I will make myself open to speak with you and answer questions.”