Justin Howell, a 20-year-old political science student at Texas State, was critically injured after being shot with a bean bag round by a police officer during a protest in Austin on May 31. Howell is currently hospitalized and in critical condition after suffering a fractured skull as well as brain damage, according to his older brother Joshua Howell.
On June 3, Joshua Howell published a piece about Justin Howell on The Battalion. In it, he shared a video of his brother being carried by five people after he was injured. The video also shows the individuals being fired upon by police using the same rounds used against Justin Howell.
The video was recorded by another protester, David Frost. According to Joshua Howell, he spoke with Frost and he said that although some “protesters were throwing rocks, water bottles, and a backpack” at officers, his brother was not. Frost also showed Joshua a photo of Justin’s body “splayed upon the ground.”
In the article, Joshua Howell said that his brother wouldn’t “be improving quickly” and that one of his brother’s doctors said, ‘“It will be a marathon, not a sprint.’” Doctors also told him that “when [Justin] wakes up, he will have difficulty telling his left from his right.”
Police Responded to the Incident Saying They Shot the Wrong Person
Justin Howell was standing near police headquarters around 11 p.m. when another protester threw a water bottle and backpack at officers guarding the building.
Police Chief Brian Manley said during a Monday media briefing that the incident was captured on a HALO (high activity location observation) camera. He said, “One of the officers fired their less-lethal munition at that individual, apparently, but it struck this victim instead. 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.”
Manley confirmed during the briefing that officers were using bean bag rounds that night. Rubber bullets were also used during the Austin protests last weekend, the Texas Tribune reported.
After Howell was shot, nearby protesters spoke with officers about getting the victim medical treatment, Manley said. They were directed to take him toward police, but as they approached the headquarters, they were fired at, which was shown in Frost’s video. Howell was finally brought through to police headquarters and was taken by ambulance to the hospital. Manley said an investigation into the incident was ongoing.
Manley said, “We are praying for this young man and his family, and we’re hoping that his condition improves quickly.”
In his article on The Battalion, Joshua Howell wrote: “We aren’t interested in your prayers. We are interested in you appropriately using the responsibilities with which the people of Austin have entrusted you. Prayer is not an excuse to abdicate responsibility.”
Manley said crowd management teams utilized “bean bag rounds that are deployed via the 12-gauge shotgun that has been modified to fire the less-lethal rounds.”
Joshua Howell also wrote in his column, “These ‘less-lethal’ munitions are only ‘less-lethal’ by technicality. My brother’s condition shows what can happen when you fire them into a crowd.”
A GoFundMe Page Has Been Set up for Justin & Has Raised Over $25,000
A GoFundMe page has been set up for Justin Howell by Gregory Arellano. As of Wednesday night, the campaign had raised more than $25,000 to go to Justin’s family, with over 1,200 donors.
One person who donated wrote: “This is the least we can do. The least. More important than donations is JUSTICE.” Another person wrote: “For justice. Black Lives Matter. Justin matters. He will continue the fight.”
The Austin City Council announced on Monday that it would hold an emergency meeting this week. The council is scheduled to meet on Thursday afternoon to speak about Austin police officers’ response to the protests that have been taking place in the city and to address policing policies.
After the death of George Floyd on May 25 while in police custody in Minneapolis, protests have erupted throughout the United States.