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Serious Injuries Prompt Renewed Calls From State Assembly Leaders To Ban Police From Shooting Foam Bullets

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) -- At least three Southland residents are speaking out against the Los Angeles Police Department after they claim they were injured in the streets of L.A. by police deploying hard foam projectiles.

Among the events that the Angelenos say left them injured was a protest over the death of George Floyd, a celebration of the Los Angeles Lakers' first championship title since 2010, and driving near a demonstration with a car window down.

All of the people involved say foam projectiles were deployed and struck them, causing injuries that could impact them for the rest of their lives.

William Gonzalez suffered the loss of an eye while cheering on the Lakers.

"He was facing away from where the police officers were," said Gonzalez's attorney John Carpenter. "He felt something graze his head and when he turned, a second projectile hit and took out his eye."

There were about a thousand people in downtown L.A. celebrating the NBA victory who described the moment as a much-needed reprieve from the stresses of this pandemic.

The celebration started out tame but turned unruly as crowds continued to show up, despite warnings from the mayor and health officials to avoid gathering.

Some people were throwing bottles and rocks at officers, and so police said they had to take actions to control and disperse the crowd, including the firing of foam projectiles.

In a separate incident that happened in June, 26-year-old Jasmine Morales said she was left with a broken cheekbone and brain injury after driving by a demonstration over Floyd's death that also turned violent.

Another man, who was not named, claims he was protesting police brutality when an officer shot a foam bullet at his head.

According to the Los Angeles Times, LAPD Chief Michel Moore said Tuesday that the department is ordering shields for officers to use as another tool for protection during potentially violent encounters.

Incidents of police in L.A. taking less-lethal and lethal action against citizens has gained attention from local and national leaders calling for an end to the use of the dangerous projectiles.

"These weapons are being used offensively against people that are doing nothing but protesting, speaking truth to power or celebrating. (William Gonzalez) did nothing wrong and now he has no eye for the rest of his life," said California state assembly member Wendy Carrillo. "The goal is to ban projectiles that are obviously causing a lot of harm in a lot of the protests that we see manifesting."

Carrillo co-authored a bill restricting the use of foam bullets for all law enforcement agencies statewide.

She has proposed it before and plans to reintroduce it to the state legislature.

"I think that it's important. One: How do we protect first amendment rights to be able to peacefully manifest and protest? Two: How to secure the safety of the officers many of them come from communities we love and are also family members and trying to do what is right and what is good to protect the public," Carrillo said.

An exact timeline on when the bill will be reintroduced was unclear, but it is expected sometime next year.

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