The Los Angeles Police Department is investigating reports that officers shot a man in the eye with rubber bullets amid an anti-police-brutality and anti-racism protest in the city.
Multiple photos show the man, who uses a wheelchair and is homeless, bleeding from the eye on Tuesday. An image by photographer Kirk Tsonos went massively viral earlier this week, showing the man in front of a line of officers, bent forward in his wheelchair as blood pours from his face. Tsonos wrote that the man was unarmed and wasn’t involved with the protests at all, and that police shot rounds “directly at his face.”
“We are aware of the photo and the allegations and we are still trying to understand the context and circumstances around what happened,” LAPD spokesperson Josh Rubenstein told BuzzFeed News. “A personnel investigation has been initiated.”
The LAPD also said it could not “speculate” on the man’s injury without “further investigation.”
Other photos published by BuzzFeed News and The Los Angeles Times show the man severely bleeding from above the eye.
News of the investigation comes in the wake of a lawsuit against the LAPD filed Friday by multiple organizations, including the Los Angeles chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, Black Lives Matter and the Los Angeles Community Action Network, The Los Angeles Times reports. The suit accuses the department of using excessive force and violating protesters’ rights to assemble. It also specifically notes that the man who was shot above the eye, identified by the name Cincinnati, said police shot him with rubber bullets.
“He pleaded with police not to use force on him before being shot in the face,” the suit states.
According to the Times, the LAPD has claimed it does not use rubber bullets ― which, despite their name, often have a hard metal core ― and instead use “less-than-lethal” foam projectiles.