Austin (KXAN) — One man involved in demonstrations in downtown Austin over the weekend is in critical condition after being struck by a beanbag round, according to Austin Police Chief Brian Manley.
Joshua Howell told KXAN his brother, Justin Howell, was the 20-year-old in critical condition that Chief Manley talked about in a press conference Monday. The Battalion, Texas A&M’s student newspaper, reports Justin Howell graduated from Communication Arts High School in San Antonio and is studying political science at Texas State University.
Joshua Howell, who works for the Battalion, wrote in an editorial that Justin has a skull fracture and brain injury. He added one of Justin’s doctors says, “It will be a marathon, not a sprint,” when it comes to recovery.
According to Chief Manley, shortly after 11:00 p.m. Sunday, the 20-year-old victim was taking video with his mobile phone while standing in the street and near the sidewalk in front of police headquarters. A different protester beside the victim threw a water bottle at officers gathered on the stairs.
APD’s security camera caught video of that protester leaving, but he returned later wearing a backpack, according to the APD press briefing. Chief Manley described the man taking the backpack and spinning in a 360-degree revolution to “get velocity” and hurls the backpack towards the officers in front of police headquarters.
“Within a moment’s notice after that, one of the officers fired their less-lethal munition at that individual, apparently, but it struck this victim instead,” Chief Manley said, “and this victim then fell to the ground and it appears as though he hit his head when he fell to the ground as well.”
A crowd of protesters carried the victim under the 8th Street bridge across the street from police headquarters. When they realized the severity of the injuries, they were directed by officers there to take him back to police headquarters for medical attention, according to police.
As the group carried the victim to seek officers’ help, they were fired on by those officers, striking someone providing medical care, Chief Manley said.
“I’ve seen pictures of a person who is providing medical attention to all of those engaged in these activities,” Chief Manley said, “and it appears as though she was struck in the hand with what she is describing as an impact munition.”
According to police, the victim was then taken into police headquarters and loaded on to an ambulance and transported to the hospital.
Chief Manley says that the department immediately began a “level one” investigation, sending investigators to the hospital. The investigation is ongoing. A level one investigation is defined as the highest level investigation into the use of force that resulted in serious injuries. This is the same level of investigation used in officer-involved shootings.
“We are praying for this young man and his family and hoping that his condition improves quickly,” Manley said.
APD has not yet identified the officer who fired the less-lethal round.