The use of “Non-Lethal Projectiles” by police officers is common in riots and other situations. But just because something is non-lethal, doesn’t mean it is safe.
Warning – The following article contains graphic content. Viewer discretion is advised.
The night of October 15, 2020, William Gonzalez was on top of the world. The Los Angeles Lakers had just won the NBA Title and he was celebrating their win with friends. Little did he know that disaster was coming.
The Los Angeles Police Department had decided that the gatherings of people were in violation of the COVID restrictions that had been in force.
They tried to get the crowds to disperse, and when they didn’t, the LAPD used “non-lethal” tactics against the crowd. This included the firing of non-lethal projectiles, or rubber/foam bullets into the crowd.
One of these bullets struck William in his eye. Instantly his eye socket was shattered, his tear duct was torn apart and his eyeball exploded from the force.
Despite the name, “non-lethal projectile”, these foam bullets are in fact still projectiles traveling at high speeds and impacts can cause massive damage. William’s brother came to his aid, using a Kobe Bryant jersey to try to stop the bleeding.
Even in his injured state, William was forced to flee further because the police were still firing on the crowd. They ran to a line of officers to try to get help and were initially pushed back, until they were finally allowed to get to an ambulance. William had to wait at least 30 minutes with his eye in this condition before he was allowed to be transported to a hospital for care.
Despite the LAPD’s insistence that these projectiles can’t penetrate the skin and that their officers are trained not to take head shots, William sustained these massive injuries and another person in the crowd lost 8 teeth when they took a projectile to the mouth.
Based on this case and other incidents over the last year with riots and protests, legislature and activists are now taking a serious look into the injuries that actually come from these Non-Lethal Projectiles.
Take a look at the following video from Jamie Hyneman of Mythbusters talking about Non-Lethal or Less Lethal projectiles and demonstrating the types of damage they can do. If you want to see the test shots, go to about 4:00 in the video where Jamie is shooting small tennis balls and they penetrate a hanging blanket. The Foam 40mm bullets used by the police still traveling at around 100 mph!
Police policy is to aim the weapons around the middle of a person, near their waist, and only firing at individuals who are a threat to the police.
Video evidence is now suggesting that officers don’t actually comply with this training, firing into crowds of people, potentially hitting an innocent individual and wounding or disabling them.
Police are being defensive, stating that video footage and even their own body cam footage doesn’t capture all the events leading up to an incident.
Gonzalez is currently being aided in his lawsuit against the police by attorneys at DRE, A.P.C. It is a tragedy and horrific that he had to experience this on a night that should have been a night of celebration and victory. We hope that the use of Non-lethal projectiles will be further investigated and further laws and restrictions passed to prevent other innocent people from being needlesly injured by police.
For more information on this case, please contact DRE, A.P.C. at (213) 296-5838. This case is currently active as of the publishing date of this article.
Here are some news articles about William’s case and the events surrounding the NBA Title Game:
LA Times ArticleNewsweek Article