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A College Student's Family Say He Has Brain Damage After Police Shot Him With A Beanbag Round

Video on Twitter shows police shooting volunteer paramedics with the same "less-lethal" ammunition as they tried to carry injured 20-year-old Justin Howell to safety.

Posted on June 4, 2020, at 11:57 a.m. ET

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Justin Howell

A black college student suffered a fractured skull and brain damage after police shot him in the head with beanbag rounds during shocking scenes at Sunday night protests in Austin, according to his family.

Justin Howell, a 20-year-old student at Texas State University, is currently sedated in a critical condition in an Austin hospital.

"He has a fractured skull. He has brain damage," wrote his brother Joshua Howell in the Battalion, the Texas A&M University publication. "Doctors anticipate that when he wakes up, he will have difficulty telling his left from his right."

Video shows police shooting at volunteer paramedics and protesters carrying Howell's limp body to get medical attention.

Volunteer protest paramedic Maredith Michael posted photos on Facebook of her bruised hands that she said had resulted from police shooting her with beanbags as she tried to clear the crowd to allow Howell's body to be carried to safety.

"I had my hands in the air, I begged for them to help, they said 'bring him over here'," wrote Michael. "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.'"

She wrote that police continued to shoot at them:

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 fuck away.

Howell's brother, Joshua, thanked the people who carried his brother to safety and slammed the police for their incompetence for shooting at those trying to save a dying man.

"It’s unclear whether the officers who shot at the protesters were the same ones who gave them the order to approach," he wrote in the Battalion. "But at minimum, it takes a special kind of incompetence to fire at those who are doing as the police tell them. At minimum, it shows a complete inability to be aware of your surroundings and to manage the situation appropriately."

Police call beanbag ammunition "less lethal" despite the life-threatening injuries suffered by Howell and Brad Ayala, a 16-year-old boy shot by police on Saturday night.

"He’s conscious and in a lot of pain because he was shot right in the middle of his forehead,” Valarie Sanchez, Ayala's sister, told the Statesman. β€œThe bullet stayed inside of his head for five hours. The front of his head is fractured and dented and he had some bleeding.”

Police said Monday that Howell was not the intended target and apologized to the family of the injured boys.

"That is not what we set out to do as a police department,” Austin police Chief Brian Manley said. β€œThat was not what we set out to do this weekend.”

But Howell's brother said he was unsatisfied with the response, adding that police needed to be accountable for the violence and injuries they caused, as well as the weapons they used against protesters.

"These 'less-lethal' munitions are only 'less-lethal' by technicality," he wrote. "My brother’s condition shows what can happen when you fire them into a crowd."

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