New Orleans’ top cop is acknowledging that officers fired rubber balls at protesters, days after saying only tear gas was used to disperse demonstrators on a bridge.
Police Superintendent Shaun Ferguson told reporters Monday officers shot the hard rubber projectiles at a crowd of protesters late Wednesday who gathered on the Crescent City Connection bridge in the wake of George Floyd’s police-custody death in Minneapolis, NOLA.com reports.
The admission contradicted previous denials from Ferguson and a police spokesman who said only tear gas had been used to break up the protest, which led to five arrests.
“This is a dark hour, that particular night, but this does not define the city of New Orleans – this does not define the New Orleans Police Department,” Ferguson said while apologizing to city residents. “We are against social injustice. We are against systemic racism … We are with you. We stand with you.”
A graduate student who was at the protest, meanwhile, said a projectile hit him as he moved to the front of the crowd in an effort to protect others from police as tear gas was dispersed.
“I definitely didn’t deserve to get shot like that,” the Tulane University student who requested not be identified told NOLA.com. “Any night that didn’t have police set up a line against us ended perfectly fine.”
The man, who was struck in the forearm, said he also saw a woman’s sign get hit with a projectile, leaving a baseball-sized hole behind.
Two commanding officers at the protest did not authorize use of the projectiles, but investigators have identified the officer or officers who fired the so-called “stinger rounds,” NOLA.com reports.
An investigation is ongoing to determine whether the use-of-force was necessary, as well as why the tactic wasn’t reported to department brass. Any officer found violating department policy could face disciplinary action included termination, the website reports.
Ferguson plans to hold a live-fire demonstration of the rubber projectiles Tuesday, WVUE reports.
With Post wires
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