The family of a Texas state student is asking for change after authorities hit him with a “nonlethal round” that lead to nearly fatal consequences. Justin Howell was one of several protestors injured during an Austin protest Sunday, May 31st. Justin’s family says he was hit by bean bag ammunition and has a fractured skull as well as brain damage. His brother Joshua Howell shared the news in The Battalion, the Texas A&M University publication, where he serves as an editor.
“He has a fractured skull. He has brain damage,” said Joshua. “Doctors anticipate that when he wakes up, he will have difficulty telling his left from his right. 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.”
The Texas Tribune reports that Justin was attending an Austin protest Sunday demanding justice for George Floyd. Around 11 p.m. Justin was standing near police headquarters when another protester threw something believed to be either a book bag or water bottle at police and police retaliated by firing a bean bag round of “less-lethal ammunition.”
Justin was inadvertently hit in the base of the skull by the object and fellow protestors and medics rushed to help him. A woman who identified herself as Meredith Michael said she clearly identified herself as a medic and she was one of several people who carried Justin’s limp body to the police station, at the orders of the police, so they could get him help.
When the protestors carrying Justing got close, however, they were fired upon.
A video of the incident shows police opening fire on the people carrying Justin.
“I had my hands in the air, I begged for them to help, they said “bring him over here,” said Meredith Michael about the incident. “I told them that his head injury was too severe, he was convulsing and unable to move, that I needed their help. “You’re going to need to bring him here.”
Several guys started to carry him, I was clearing the path, with my hands up (crossed wrists, our signal that I was volunteering for the medical tent across the street)
They started to fire into the crowd, and shot my hands, from no more than 3 feet away. I don’t remember falling to the ground, injuring my shoulder, hip, and neck. I woke up to what seemed like the relentless sound of these “less lethal” bean bags… And my own screaming.
Just so you know, I had been there 2 full days. With one of my firefighter shirts on that I sewed a huge red and white medical cross on the front and back of. I had red and white crosses taped on my helmet. They knew I was a medic.
I begged them to help the young man, I begged them to help me… But they just continued to fire these “less lethal” bean bags into the crowd. They told me to back off, they told me to move the f***k away.”
Police said Monday that Justin was not the intended target and they issued an apology. They didn’t just apology to Justin however, they also apologized to the family of Brad Levi Ayala, a 16-year-old injured by a less lethal round, while standing at a protest. Video shows him standing still and not being a threat before being struck and collapsing into a heap.
“That is not what we set out to do as a police department,” Austin police Chief Brian Manley said. “That was not what we set out to do this weekend.” Cheif Manley added that the police will no longer be using bean bag rounds on protestors.
A GoFundMe for Justin’s medical expenses has been established.
We pray Justin Howell and Brad Ayala recover soon.