The Los Angeles Police Department is still investigating an incident of a disabled homeless man who was shot in the face with rubber bullets as police were arresting protesters Tuesday, an LAPD spokesperson told Heavy.
Los Angeles police officers arrested dozens of protesters in downtown Los Angeles on Broadway between 4th and 5th streets on Tuesday, June 2, as curfew set in for the night, as the Los Angeles Daily News reported. Protesters fled to an apartment building as police fired rubber bullets. One bullet hit a homeless man in a wheelchair right above his left eye, drawing blood and creating a large welt.
Paramedics and LAPD officers treated the injured man and wheeled him away, according to the Daily News. The man’s current condition is unknown. It’s also unconfirmed whether he was part of the protest or just simply caught in the crossfire.
LAPD Public Information Officer Norma Eisenman told Heavy that they are aware of the incident and are receiving tips as well as videos and photos about it. However, as their department of internal affairs is still investigating the incident and the photos, they cannot comment on the matter as of yet. Updates will be posted on their website.
“The department is aware of the video and we’ll be conducting an investigation, so there will be no further comment,” Eisenman said.
You can see images of the incident in the article here. Lily Lynch, co-founder and writer for Balkanist Magazine, posted photos taken of the injured homeless man on Twitter. Her post gained at least 173,300 retweets and 376,900 likes.
The incident occurred following a protest at City Hall with thousands of people gathering as part of the Black Lives Matter movement, according to the Daily News. They came to protest the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police and other moments of police brutality. The protest did not see confrontations between police and protesters until curfew set in at 6 p.m. when police warned that they should leave or face arrest. Protesters at one point demanded that officers take a knee, according to the publication. Since then, police made at least a 100 arrests that night, according to NBC Los Angeles.
Days before the incident, 1,000 National Guard troops arrived at the city under the request of Mayor Eric Garcetti, according to the Los Angeles Times. Half would assist the Sheriff’s Department and half would help the LAPD. In recent weeks, the Guard had been sent to nursing homes in L.A. County to help with the coronavirus situation. The last time the National Guard have been deployed in L.A. was in 1994 days after the Northridge earthquake.
Almost half of people who are killed by police have a disability, according to a 2015 report by the Ruderman Family Foundation (via NBC News). The report, written by historian David Perry and disability expert Lawrence Carter-Long, notes that “police have become the default responders to mental health calls.” They postulate that people with psychiatric disabilities are presumed to be “dangerous to themselves and others” in police interactions. The report notes that debates over police brutality have understandably focused on race, but that can obscure debates on how disability comes into play.