PORTLAND — The U.S. Marshals Service is investigating after a protester was hospitalized in critical condition over the weekend after being hit in the head by an impact munition fired by a federal law enforcement officer, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler said.
In a statement late Sunday, Wheeler that he spoke with U.S. Attorney for Oregon Billy J. Williams and learned of the investigation.
“I am calling on the federal government to be thorough and transparent with their findings. I’m concerned that the actions of federal officers last night escalated, rather than de-escalated, already heightened tensions in our city,” said the mayor, a Democrat.
Bystander video shows the protester collapsing to the ground and bleeding profusely from the head after a federal officer outside the Mark O. Hatfield Federal Courthouse fired a round at him. The protester was standing with both arms in the air holding a larger speaker across the street from the courthouse when he was hit.
He was identified by Oregon Public Broadcasting as Donavan LaBella, 26. His mother, Desiree LaBella, told the station that he suffered facial and skull fractures. He came out of surgery early Sunday morning and was responding to doctors.
“He was awake enough to give the OK to talk to me,” she said. “He’s had some facial reconstruction surgery. They’re just watching him right now.”
The shooting late Saturday night was widely condemned in Portland, which has seen violent protests every night following the death in May of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Those protests recently have focused almost entirely on federal property, and particularly the courthouse.
The Department of Homeland Security has deployed officers in tactical gear from around the country, and from more than a half-dozen federal law enforcement agencies and departments, to Portland as part of a surge aimed at what a senior official said were people taking advantage of demonstrations over the police killing of Floyd to engage in violence and vandalism.
Federal officers also used tear gas over the weekend to quell protesters. The Portland Police Bureau is under a temporary federal court order that bans them from using tear gas unless they declare a riot.
Both of Oregon’s U.S. senators condemned the shooting on Sunday, as did Portland City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, the first Black woman elected to the City Council.
“This reckless and aggressive behavior has now put someone in the hospital,” Hardesty said. “This protester is still fighting for their life and I want to be clear: this should never have happened. If this continues a life will be taken and it won’t matter whether a federal officer or Portland Police officer did it – it won’t bring that person back.”
Last week, Deputy Police Chief Chris Davis said an “agitator corps” of violent protesters is responsible for vandalism and chaos in the city. Davis made a distinction between Black Lives Matter protesters, whom he said were not violent, and a smaller group of people he repeatedly called “agitators.”