AUSTIN, Texas — Editor's note: The video published above is a KVUE report from June about protester Justin Howell and his recovery.
A Texas woman is suing the City of Austin and an unidentified Austin Police Department (APD) officer after she claims she was shot with "potentially deadly" bean bag rounds while she tried to help another protester.
In the lawsuit, Maredith Drake claims that while helping Texas State student Justin Howell, who was shot by a less-lethal bean bag round by police officers during Austin protests, she was also struck by those less-lethal bean bag rounds.
Drake and Howell both attended the May 31 Black Lives Matter protest outside of APD headquarters in downtown, according to the lawsuit. Drake claims she was serving as a volunteer "street medic" and provided first aid to protesters. According to the lawsuit, Drake was wearing a helmet and shirt marked with a red cross, symbolizing her services as for first aid.
Austin Police Chief Brian Manley addressed Howell's incident shortly after the incident and was visibly emotional. KVUE reported in June that Howell was slowly recovering nearly one month after being shot by the less-lethal round.
The lawsuit claims Howell started to suffer seizures after being hit, prompting Drake and others to rush to help Howell.
While Drake was helping direct other volunteers who were carrying Howell away, she held her hands up to show all the police officers in the area that she was unarmed and was shot with a less-lethal bean bag round from his shotgun, according to the lawsuit.
“Shooting an innocent person helping an unconscious individual to safety is the definition of excessive force,” Jeff Edwards, Drake’s attorney, said in the lawsuit. “Maredith went downtown that day to help people exercise their First Amendment rights. That the police would use brutal force on peaceful demonstrators like Maredith during a protest against police brutality no less is beyond the pale. That their leadership would defend it shows that APD is in drastic need of fundamental reform.”
The less-lethal bean bag round struck Drake in the hands, the lawsuit claims.
"APD leadership knew that the shotgun rounds could cause devastating injuries yet they continued to have officers fire them at numerous people protesting," Edwards added. "This type of misjudgment is as dangerous as it gets."
A City of Austin spokesperson sent KVUE the following statement regarding the lawsuit:
"The city is currently reviewing the claims related to the May 2020 protests. Because there were many individuals involved in the events, it takes time to sort through everything. The Police Department, along with the Office of Police Oversight, and the Law Department will review each claim, and the city will work directly with the individual protestors and their lawyers."
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