Austin police critically injured a black college student on Sunday night when they mistakenly shot him in the head with “less-lethal ammunition” during a protest over the murder of George Floyd.
Justin Howell, a 20-year-old political science student at Texas State University, remains hospitalized with a fractured skull and brain damage. When some of Howell’s fellow protesters attempted to carry him to safety — as instructed by police — officers fired at the “human stretcher” they had created.
The Texas Tribune reports: In a media briefing, [Austin police Chief Brian] Manley said police cameras showed the critically injured protester was standing near police headquarters at around 11 p.m. when another man lobbed a water bottle, and then hurled his backpack, at officers guarding the building. Manley said the protester was hit by a bean bag round. Rubber bullets were also seen on the ground during Austin protests this weekend. Manley said after the man was shot, people nearby talked to officers about getting him medical attention and were given instructions to bring him toward police. Video shows a group of people carrying a man toward the officers on the steps of the police building and then being shot at themselves. Manley said it was reported that less-lethal munitions were again used, and one person at the protest providing medical attention was struck in the hand.
Howell’s older brother, Joshua, later wrote about the incident in Texas A&M’s student newspaper, The Battalion, where he works. By Thursday morning, the title of Joshua Howell’s op-ed, “His Name is Justin Howell,” was trending on Twitter.
Howell wrote: It’s also notable in his briefing how little effort Manley puts into taking responsibility for what happened. No, reader, I haven’t omitted the part of Manley’s statement where he seems contrite. There was no apology. Instead, he sat at his desk for three full minutes, gave us the details above and at no point apologized to my brother, my family or the five brave protesters who carried Justin to police headquarters under fire. (To those protesters: My family sees you, and we thank you.) And what is somehow worse, Manley concludes his remarks by saying: “We are praying for this young man and his family and we are hoping that his condition improves quickly.” To which my family, a deeply religious one, says this: 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.
More from the Austin Statesman: Austin police also shot a different person, 16-year-old Brad Ayala, in the head with a bean bag round, according to Manley. Ayala was also taken to the hospital with serious injuries. “That is not what we set out to do as a police department,” Manley said Monday, referring to the injuries to protesters. “That was not what we set out to do this weekend.” Protesters have called on the city to fire Manley since protests began last week.
Watch a report from CBS Austin below.