A woman struck in the eye by a rubber bullet, and the family of an 8-year-old boy who was sprayed in the face with a chemical irritant, condemned the Seattle Police Department on Monday for its use of crowd-control weapons during the city’s recent demonstrations over the killing of George Floyd.
“We have a state of emergency in the state of Washington and across this nation,” said James Bible, a Bellevue-based attorney who represents the woman and the family of the young boy, at a news conference. “It is in relation to police misconduct. It is in relation to police brutality. Too many people have died at the hands of police officers.”
One of the protesters, Mondo Avery, said he and his family went to downtown Seattle on May 30 to participate in one of the city’s first protests over the death of Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.
While they were there, his son, who was 7 on the day of the protest but has since turned 8, was hit in the face with chemical gas, Bible said. Bible said he wasn’t sure if police used pepper spray or mace.
“I felt like I failed him because I couldn’t protect him,” Avery said. “And something he said is, ‘Dad, the only person you can’t protect me from is the police.’ And that’s rough. That’s rough for me to hear as a father, to hear that coming from my 8-year-old son … But there’s nothing I can do to prevent that.”
Videos and photos of the boy circulated on social media after the protest, sparking anger among other protesters and members of the community.
“There comes a point where you have to stand for what’s right,” Avery said. “Enough is enough. Black lives matter. My son is a young kid.”
Evan Hreha, who filmed a video of Avery’s son a few seconds after he was sprayed in the face at the protest, was also at the Monday news conference to demand justice for victims of police violence. In Hreha’s widely shared video, the child can be seen screaming and crying as people pour milk on his face.
About a week later, Seattle police arrested Hreha on suspicion of unlawful discharge of a laser, said his attorneys, Sade Smith and Talitha Hazelton. He was booked into King County Jail, where he stayed for about 43 hours before being released, according to jail records.
Hazelton said prosecutors declined to bring felony charges, but there’s a chance misdemeanor charges could be filed in the future.
Nikita Tarver, 35, was also at the Seattle protest that day. It was the first she had ever attended, said Tarver, who was wearing dark sunglasses and bandages over her left eye Monday.
She and one of her best friends had made a sign to honor other Black victims of police brutality and drove downtown together.
“We were really excited,” Tarver said.
When they arrived downtown, she and her friend marched with the group to the steps of City Hall, where people were kneeling and making speeches.
“Everything was great,” she said. “Everything was beautiful.”
Once the crowd started dispersing, Tarver said she saw her sign had fallen on the ground and bent down to pick it up. When she stood up, holding the sign above her head, a rubber bullet hit her in the face.
“I screamed in sheer terror,” Tarver said, later adding that “everything burned.”
Somehow, she said, she and her friend found their way back to their car, struggled to get through a line of police barricades and drove to Harborview Medical Center.
Tarver had her first surgery two days later. She said Monday doctors aren’t sure if she’ll be able to see out of her left eye again.
“They said I actually should have a hole in the back of my head as well,” she said.
She has another appointment — her ninth hospital visit since May 30 — scheduled for Tuesday, and expects she’ll have to undergo another surgery soon.
The Seattle City Council voted unanimously last week to ban police crowd-control weapons, including “kinetic impact projectiles, chemical irritants, acoustic weapons, directed energy weapons, water cannons, disorientation devices, ultrasonic cannons, or any other device that is designed to be used on multiple individuals for crowd control and has the potential is designed to cause pain or discomfort.”
David B. Owens, a civil rights attorney who also represents Avery’s family, said they plan to file multiple lawsuits against the city of Seattle, the officers who pepper-sprayed the family and “those that refused to intervene in the aftermath.”
“We’re coming,” Owens said.
Seattle police spokesman Patrick Michaud would not address the statements made at Monday’s news conference, instead referring a reporter to an earlier statement released by the Seattle Office of Police Accountability.
The June 3 statement, which misidentifies the child as a girl, said the office was looking to speak with witnesses, and — due to the “immense public concern surrounding this incident” — hoped to complete the investigation within 60 days, compared to the standard 180 days.
As of Monday evening, the office was 55% finished with the investigation, according to its demonstration complaint dashboard.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Evan Hreha was in jail for 19 hours, rather than 43. It has since been updated to reflect the correct amount of time.