Updated at 3:46 p.m.
A female protester was blinded in one eye when law enforcement allegedly shot her in the face with a rubber bullet during a protest last Friday in Oak Park, according to her lawyer.
Attorney Lisa Bloom says her client, 29-year-old mother of two Shantania Love, was peacefully protesting the police killing of Minnesota man George Floyd when police attempted to disperse the crowd with rubber bullets and flash grenades. Bloom says Love had multiple medical appointments and a surgery this week.
“This is a movement against police brutality, and yet protesters are so often a victim of police brutality,” she said.
It’s the latest in a recent string of Sacramento protesters experiencing serious injuries from rubber bullets. Last Saturday, an 18-year-old suffered a broken jaw when law enforcement responded to protesters in front of the county jail. Another protester reportedly suffered a fractured skull and underwent two surgeries after being shot in the head by multiple rubber bullets.
Now Democratic state lawmakers are speaking out against the use of so-called “non-lethal” or “less-weapons,” including rubber bullets and tear gas. Legislators are calling for reforms that would restrict their use and set standards for tracking resulting injuries.
“Instead of using these [weapons] during a time of imminent threat, a lot of police departments are using them to disperse the crowd,” said Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez said. “They were never intended for that use.”
Bloom says Love believes a Sacramento city police officer fired the rubber bullet. A Sacramento Police Department public information officer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg says there needs to be a clear standard on the use of non-lethal weapons.
“Nobody should be worried about getting shot in the face with a rubber bullet when they’re peacefully protesting,” he said in an emailed statement. “The question is what tactics are necessary to keep the peace and to prevent loss of life and destruction versus what is excessive.”
Steinberg said he agrees with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s call for a new standard on law enforcement use of force and crowd control techniques.
Last Friday’s demonstration was largely peaceful, with little property damage. Protesters marched down Franklin Boulevard, stopping at the Sacramento police’s South Command center, before returning to Oak Park. On the 12th Avenue overpass above Highway 99, demonstrators faced off with law enforcement for about an hour. Police attempted to physically move the crowd multiple times, and gave orders to disperse.
Bloom says Love, a medical assistant who lives in Sacramento, was chanting “hands up, don’t shoot” when police fired rubber bullets into the crowd around midnight. She says Love did not hear a dispersal order.
The attorney plans to file a civil lawsuit, an internal affairs complaint and potentially a criminal complaint.
She said she does not know the name of the officer who allegedly shot Love.
Bloom is a high-profile attorney best-known for representing plaintiffs in sexual assault cases against celebrities, including Bill O’Reilly and Jeffrey Epstein. She later advised Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein when he faced multiple harassment and assault allegations. Bloom has also handled a number of alleged police brutality cases.
Observers have raised concerns in recent days about the use of rubber bullets, beanbag guns and tear gas to disperse crowds, as law enforcement has increasingly turned to them in response to protests across the country.
Gonzalez and other Democratic lawmakers are hoping to introduce legislation this year to more closely regulate the use of less-lethal weapons. Bloom says she has been in contact with Gonzalez’s office to support the effort.
A 2017 study published in the medical journal BMJ found that 3% of people hit by rubber bullets died of their injuries, and 15% suffered permanent injury. The study looked at incidents spanning nearly 3 decades.
Other California protesters have suffered serious injuries from rubber bullets or similar projectiles used by law enforcement during recent demonstrations, including in San Diego and Los Angeles.
CapRadio provides a trusted source of news because of you. As a nonprofit organization, donations from people like you sustain the journalism that allows us to discover stories that are important to our audience. If you believe in what we do and support our mission, please donate today.