A 21-year-old protester lost his right eye after he was struck by a tear gas canister during George Floyd demonstrations in Indiana, according to reports.
Balin Brake, who is enrolled at Indiana Tech, said he ran when cops ordered the crowd to disperse Saturday at protests in Fort Wayne, news station WFFT reported.
But officers started deploying tear gas and one of the canisters struck his shoe, the outlet reported. He then turned around to see what happened and the second can hit him in the face, injuring his right eye.
“He saw [the canister] hit the ground after it hit him,” Brake’s mother, Rachel Simonis, told the Journal Gazette.
Other protesters carried him to medics and he was rushed to the hospital, but doctors were unable to save his eye, according to the reports.
Fort Wayne police denied Sunday that officers aimed the tear gas can at any protester’s head, the Journal Gazette reported.
“Gas was deployed in the area and the protester bent over to pick up the canister to throw it back at officers as many others were trying to do,” police said in a statement. “When he bent over, another canister was deployed in the area and that canister skipped and hit the protester in the eye.”
But Brake insisted he “absolutely” did not try to pick up the can, noting that he wasn’t wearing gloves, the outlet reported.
“Those canisters are hot as hell,” Brake said. “I would not try to pick them up with my bare hands.”
Brake said he has to undergo another operation to repair fractures and then will be fitted for a prosthetic eye, the outlet reported.
But he said the injury was just “small collateral for the battle we’re fighting,” according to the newspaper.
“If you’re not going to use [your white privilege] to advocate for your fellow people, then that is just wrong,” Brake said.