Donavan LaBella is an Oregon man who was shot in the head with a less lethal impact weapon during a protest outside of the federal courthouse in Portland on July 12, The Oregonian reports. A video shows LaBella holding a speaker over his head when he was hit by the munition shot by a federal officer, the newspaper reports. LaBella’s mother said on Facebook her son is improving, but it is not yet known if he suffered “lasting neurological damage.”
LaBella, 26, is originally from Salem, Oregon, and now lives in Portland. LaBella was among protesters who have been gathering outside of the federal courthouse in Portland, which is being protected by federal officers. Local police have been restricted by a court order from using crowd control munitions against nonviolent protesters, but the order does not bar federal agents from using the munitions, according to The Oregonian.
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler said in a statement on July 12, “A person was seriously injured in Portland last night. This should not have happened. I’m concerned that the actions of federal officers last night escalated, rather than deescalated, already heightened tensions in our city.” He also asked federal officers to follow the same rules as Portland city police. Wheeler added, “My main concern is this: that the continuing violence will lead to further injuries or even deaths. Nobody in Portland wants to see that happen.”
President Donald Trump said during a July 10 event that he sent federal agents to Portland because he thought the city was “out of control,” according to a White House transcript. Trump added, “The locals couldn’t handle it, and you people are handling it very nicely — so nicely that the press doesn’t want to write about it.”
Here’s what you need to know about Donavan LaBella and the incident in Portland:
1. A Video Shows LaBella Kicking & Tossing a Canister That Landed Near His Feet Before Holding a Speaker Over His Head & Being Shot
A video, which you can watch above, shows Donavan LaBella holding a speaker over his head at the protest outside the federal courthouse in Portland on July 12. Other protesters are in front of LaBella and he is separated by a street and large sidewalk from the federal authorities guarding the courthouse. The federal officers are wearing helmets, body armor and masks. About 10 seconds into the video, one of the federal officers throws a canister into the street, and it lands in front of LaBella, sparking. LaBella kicks the canister away from him and then picks it up and tosses it into the middle of the street. It does not land near the federal officers.
The video shows LaBella then raising his speaker back above his head and staring out at the officers. A second later, one of the officers fires and LaBella drops to the ground. The video then shows other protesters providing aid to LaBella as the officers stay away.
A second video from the scene shows LaBella bleeding from his head as protesters take him to an ambulance to get him to the hospital. A puddle of blood can be seen on the ground.
“It caused a pretty deep laceration, but he was bleeding from his nose, his mouth, his ears—it was pretty bad,” Jessica Shifflett, a woman who helped LaBella after he was shot and before he was brought to an ambulance, told KOIN.
The U.S. Marshals Service, which is in charge of protecting the federal courthouse, said in a statement, “We are aware of the incident that happened on July 12 near the Hatfield U.S. Courthouse where an individual was injured while U.S. Marshals were securing the perimeter of the federal courthouse. The U.S. Marshals Service takes all injuries potentially arising from use-of-force very seriously. The incident is currently being investigated, and more information will be released as soon as possible.”
2. LaBella’s Mother Said Her Son Had a Titanium Plate Put in His Forehead, but He Is ‘Slowly Getting Better’
Donavan LaBella is being treated at Legacy Emanuel Medical Center in Portland, his mother told KPTV. She said he suffered shattered bones in his face, but it’s not yet clear if he suffered brain trauma or permanent eye injuries. She said he is expected to survive and is no longer in critical condition.
Desiree LaBella told KOIN her son underwent facial reconstructive surgery and had a titanium plate put in his head. She said she spoke to him by computer. She told The Oregonian, “He still has a tube in his skull to drain the blood.”
Desiree LaBella, a medical assistant in psychiatry at the Oregon State Hospital, wrote on Facebook that her son was “doing better” on July 13. LaBella wrote, ” We are still waiting for the MRI results concerning vision problems with his left eye…the ICP Bolt was removed last night.”
Donavan LaBella’s mother added in the post, “He still has some impulse control and confusion, but is slowly getting better. It is still unknown if there will be any lasting neurological damage, only time will tell. Thank you everyone for all the support and well wishes.”
3. LaBella Started a GoFundMe in June to Pursue His Dream of Traveling & ‘Document What’s Happening’ Around the Country
LaBella posted a GoFundMe in June asking for help with “roadtripping” and his “wanderlust.” LaBella wrote, “In the midst of everything going on I am aware of how selfish it may be of me to ask for a handout to help me achieve my dream of traveling. All I’m asking for is a boost to get started so I can travel the country during this crisis and help document what’s happening as well as help out anyone I can along the way!”
LaBella’s mother told Oregon Public Broadcasting she planned to contact an attorney to explore filing a possible lawsuit on behalf of her son. As of July 14, a lawsuit had not been filed.
According to The Associated Press, the U.S. Department of Justice will be investigating the incident. U.S. Attorney for Oregon Billy J. Williams told the AP the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General will be leading the review.
Williams declined to comment further. The officer who shot LaBella has not been identified and it is not clear what agency he or she works for. It is also not known if the officer has been suspended or placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.
4. LaBella’s Sister Says He Is a ‘Great Person’ & ‘Didn’t Deserve This to Happen to Him’
In a GoFundMe campaign started to help with LaBella’s medical expenses and recovery, his sister, Destiny Rode, a certified nursing assistant in Washington state, wrote, “My brother was shot (I’m) setting this up to help him with medical and any other expenses like food and gas for his mom and sister anything to help this is a horrible time for us. Donavan is a great person and didn’t deserve for this to happen to him.”
The GoFundMe started by Rode has raised more than $4,000 since she started it. One contributor, Melissa Lang, wrote, “Saw the video on Twitter and was horrified. Keep fighting! Get better internet stranger.” Marissa Phillips wrote on the GoFundMe, “Saw the incident on video, it was unbelievable.”
Protesters have held tributes to LaBella in Portland after he was shot. Oregon Public Broadcasting wrote, “Caitlyn Sakelik, one of Donavan LaBella’s close friends, said he had been standing in Lownsdale Square Park across the street from the federal courthouse when officers started shooting impact munitions into the crowd. Sakelik’s husband, Elton Rosas, said the shooting was completely unprovoked.”
Rosas told OPB, “He’s been completely nonviolent the entire time he’s been down there. He helps deescalate situations. Out of all people, he’s one of the nicest kids you will ever meet.”
Denise Burke said on GoFundMe in a message to LaBella’s mother, “I have 4 sons and watching that video turned my stomach and broke my heart. I wish you all the best for a speedy healthy recovery and may you get a FANTASTIC lawyer! You are a handsome young man and I wish you all the best life has to offer you. You did NOT deserve that at all!”
5. The Department of Homeland Security Secretary Said ‘We Should Have More Support’ of Portland Police & Trump Called Protesters a ‘Pretty Wild Group’
During a July 10 event, Trump asked Wolf about the federal officers who have been sent to Portland. Trump said it was his order to send the federal law enforcement there because of ongoing protests in the Oregon city that he believed were getting out of control.
Wolf told Trump, “I think what we see in Portland is really a smaller example of what we see around the country regarding some of the civil unrest and the attacks on law enforcement. And what you find in Portland is about five and a half weeks of continued violence against the federal courthouse there that the Department of Homeland Security protects.”
Wolf added, “We’ve had to send in additional individuals. We’re making arrests. But there has been violence, there’s been assaults on federal law enforcement officers. And it really just shouldn’t occur. We should have more support of the local police there. But again, the Department of Homeland Security, along with the DOJ, FBI, and others are surging resources, and we’re starting to make a difference there.”
Wolf told Trump about a dozen people had been arrested and charged. Trump responded, “And I know you have it in very good control, but it’s a — it’s a pretty wild group, but you have it in very good control. … So (we) appreciate it. Local law enforcement has been told not to do too much. It’s not the way it’s supposed to be, but that’s okay. Good job. You’ve really done a great job.”
Oregon Governor Kate Brown, a Democrat, told KPTV, “Trump troops in Portland are definitely not the answer as we saw this only escalates the tension and we need dialogue and de-escalation.”
Wheeler, also a Democrat, said in a statement, “I want to make it very clear so that there’s no confusion, the serious injuries sustained by Donavan LaBella at the hands of a federal officer were unacceptable.”
Democratic U.S. Senator Ron Wyden tweeted, “The consequences of Donald Trump unilaterally dispatching (federal) law enforcement into U.S. cities played out in Portland (with a) peaceful protester shot in the head. Trump (and) Homeland Security must now answer why (federal) officers are acting like an occupying army.”
U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley, also a Democrat, said in a statement, “Given President Trump’s misuse of force against protesters outside the White House and elsewhere, the deployment of federal agents in Portland raises serious concerns. What was their mission? Did they abuse peaceful protestors? Were their uniforms accurately marked? Did they made the situation worse? What weapons did they use? Were they invited by Portland police or local officials?”