Protester, Shot in the Eye, Demands Answers From Dallas Police

Screenshot taken from a video that went viral of Brandon Saenz after he was hit in the face with a rubber bullet while protesting police brutality in Dallas on Saturday, May 30.

DALLAS (CN) — A Dallas protester demanded answers from police Wednesday regarding the loss of his left eye after an officer shot him in the face with nonlethal ammunition during a peaceful protest against police brutality on May 30.

Videos of Brandon Saenz, 26, went viral after the shooting as Twitter posts showed him lying on a sidewalk with blood pouring out of his eye as other protesters frantically tried to stop the bleeding and called for medical assistance. Several of the protesters said it was a rubber bullet, that they were peacefully protesting and were not a threat to police.

Saenz spoke publicly for the first time Wednesday, telling reporters he has lost the eye and seven teeth. He said he has suffered multiple facial fractures requiring many surgeries. As he spoke, a band of staples could be seen running from each ear over the top of his head and a plastic tube dangled behind his left ear to drain fluid to prevent blood clots. Saenz said the shooting happened in the afternoon near the Dallas Public Library and Dallas City Hall.

“I just want my justice,” Saenz said. “That cop was out of line; he knows who he is. He just doesn’t want to come out and say it.”

Saenz said he put his hands up immediately after being shot, covered his left eye and started running before fellow protesters surrounded him and told him to lie down. He said police were lined up nearby, and that “they acted like they didn’t want to do anything for me and were like ‘we don’t care, you are going to have to move.’”

Saenz was flanked by his father Andre Ray and attorneys Daryl Washington and Jasmine Crockett. Washington said his client was peacefully protesting police brutality and the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police last week.

“The death of George Floyd touched this city, but it touched Brandon,” Washington said. “Brandon decided he was going to go out and support the efforts of other peaceful protesters. He wanted to see change take place in this city, state and country. Sadly, Brandon has now become a victim of police brutality. What happened to him is not justified whatsoever.”

Ray thanked God that his son is still alive, but added, “No one has come forward to say, ‘Hey, look, let’s hold this officer accountable.’”

Crockett asked members of the community to help identify the officer who wounded Saenz, adding, “We do not want to go after the entire police department.”

She criticized Dallas Police Chief U. Renee Hall for speaking out against Floyd’s killing, saying, “I don’t need your words; I need your actions.”

“She can actually let the community know, not behind closed doors, but in front of everybody, can let them know ‘I am demanding this action of my officers, they fall under my command,’” Crockett said. “She needs to strongly proclaim that she will not stand for this kind of violence.”

Hall is Dallas’ first black female police chief, joining the department in 2017 after serving as deputy chief in Detroit.

On Monday she announced an investigation into two use-of-force incidents during the weekend protests. But it does not appear she was referring to Saenz’s shooting, as the two incidents were described as taking place one day later in different parts of downtown.

An online fundraising campaign for Saenz’s medical bills had raised more than $47,000 as of Wednesday evening.

The Dallas-Fort Worth area has been rocked by several high-profile killings of unarmed black residents by white officers in the past three years. Former Balch Springs Officer Roy Oliver was convicted of murder in 2018 for firing a rifle five times into a car and killing 15-year-old Jordan Edwards one year earlier. A Dallas County jury did not believe his claims the car was driving at his partner and sentenced him to 15 years in state prison.

Former Dallas Officer Amber Guyger was convicted of murder in October for killing Botham Jean, an accountant with PricewaterhouseCoopers, in his own apartment which she mistook for her own and fired at what she thought was an intruder.

Testimony during the seven-day trial alleged Dallas police showed Guyger favorable treatment by refusing to arrest her immediately in spite of probable cause, being allowed to speak to a union representative in a police car with recording devices turned off and that she was charged only with manslaughter several days after the shooting. Jurors sentenced her to 10 years in state prison.

Mere days after Guyger’s trial ended, former Fort Worth police Officer Aaron Dean was charged with murder for shooting and killing Atatiana Jefferson through the window of her mother’s home during a nonemergency welfare check. A two-minute body camera video shows Dean looking into a window at the home, suddenly yelling, “Put your hands up, show me your hands,” before immediately firing his service weapon inside. He is not shown identifying himself as police at any time. He is free on bond, awaiting trial in Tarrant County.

DAVID LEE

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