At a protest on Sunday night an unknown law enforcement officer shot a plastic grenade at a protester less than 15-feet away, severely injuring the man, according to a press release sent to local media outlets yesterday.
The crowd-control weapon used is known as a sting-ball grenade, a black ball somewhat larger than a tennis ball. When it detonates, it disperses dozens of smaller rubber balls at high velocity.
On Sunday night, the projectile hit Marqus “Red Bear” Martinez, a Santa Rosa native and father of five, in the face, fracturing his jaw, splitting his lip, and knocking out four front teeth, according to a press release distributed by his supporters on Wednesday.
Photographs of Martinez’s injuries, Martinez during the protest, and the sting-ball grenade are included with the press release.
“It seems to me like I was singled out, they saw me with my phone recording and then they shot directly at my face with a plastic type of grenade,” Martinez is quoted in the release. “After that I ran, I didn’t understand why they were meeting us with such force, we were only trying to talk with the police, we were being peaceful.”
In a phone interview, Izaak Schwaiger, a Sonoma County attorney who has filed multiple civil rights lawsuits against local law enforcement agencies, said that it remains unclear whether or not the Santa Rosa Police Department was the only law enforcement agency at the scene on Sunday. Schwaiger said this is the first time, to his knowledge, that the Santa Rosa Police Department has used a sting-ball grenade.
It is possible that multiple law enforcement agencies may have collaborated to shut down protesters in Santa Rosa on Sunday, as they have done in other cities around the country, Schwaiger said.
The Santa Rosa Police Chief Ray Navarro did not return a request for comment on Thursday afternoon.
After the injury, Martinez was transported to Stanford Hospital in Palo Alto for reconstructive surgery. Supporters have organized a fundraiser to cover Martinez’s medical costs. The GoFundMe campaign has raised over $18,000 in the past day.
“The Santa Rosa Police Department did not give aid after shooting directly at Martinez,” the press release states.
In their release, Martinez’s supporters demand an investigation into the officer who shot the sting-ball grenade and that the department stop using tear gas, pepper spray and sting-ball grenades during protests.
“We demand extensive training and de escalation tactics within peaceful protests, we demand the rights of protestors be respected, we demand the demilitarization of police and investment in black and People of Color communities. We demand an end to the war against black, indigenous and all people of color,” the press release states in part. ”These demands are in alignment with the Black Lives Matter movement.”