LaToya Ratlieff, 34, fractured her eye socket when she was hit with a rubber bullet while peacefully protesting in Florida on Sunday
A peaceful protester in Florida suffered a cracked skull after police shot her in the head with a foam rubber bullet as she was running away from tear gas.
LaToya Ratlieff, 34, was already coughing and choking on the tear gas and attempting to get to safety when she was hit following a protest on Sunday, according to the Miami Herald.
She said that cops watching let her lie on the ground injured after attacking her despite being peaceful.
‘I would’ve continue to lay on the ground while the cops watched me bleeding. I was walking away. I was peaceful and I was still attacked,’ she said in an Instagram post.
Video footage of the incident from around 7pm Sunday in Fort Lauderdale shows Ratlieff kneeling several yards in front of a line of cops with other demonstrators protesting police brutality in the wake of George Floyd’s death.
The moment she was shot was not caught as the group moved from the tear gas but the aftermath shows other protesters pulling her to safety as blood runs down her face.
The protesters, who she did not know, rushed Ratlieff in their car to Broward General Medical Center while the emergency-trained police officers decked out in riot gear looked on.
Ratlieff says she was brought to her knees by the hit that opened a bloody gash over her right eye.
Medical records show that it fractured her eye socket leaving her face swollen.
LaToya Ratlieff was hit with a rubber bullet as she attempted to run from tear gas at a protest in Florida Sunday, an incident that she says has made her nervous about her next interaction with a police officer. She is the grand-niece of a renowned civil rights activis
Moments before the tear gas was fired, she said that she was encouraging the protesters gathered to remain peaceful and kneel with her.
She posted to her Instagram account that she had been heading back to her car to go home when she noticed a group begin to get rowdy.
Ratlieff, the great-niece of a renowned civil rights activist, added that the protest that day had been peaceful up until a cop identified as Steven Pohorence shoved a female protester who was kneeling.
The angered demonstrators initially began throwing bottles but the situation had calmed down afterward, according to Miami Herald reporters who were present.
Pohorence has since been suspended for shoving the woman, an act that was also caught on a protester’s video.
Despite the situation settling, however, the officers continued launching tear gas canisters from behind a wall of shields and the protesters scurried.
Ratlieff said she had been trying to get out of the way when the bullet was fired.
‘We were all running and trying to get out of the way. So, it was purposeful in the fact that the officer could have stopped,’ Ratlieff said.
‘Whichever officer that did this, you could have stopped. You had no reason to continue to do that.’
The police officer involved has not yet been identified.
‘It wasn’t until I saw all the blood on the ground that it hit me,’ she added.
‘I’ve been shot.’
The police department states that a warning should be given before a rubber bullet is fired but Ratlieff said that she did not hear one and there is not one heard in the video of the incident.
‘It hurts. I don’t have a lot of words to describe it. I don’t really understand why this happens,’ Ratlieff said. ‘We’re here peacefully asking you not do this, not to be violent, and you meet us with violence?’
She admits that she will be returning to protest next weekend when the swelling goes down but that she is now nervous about her next interaction with an officer.
LaToya Ratlieff posted this picture on Instagram before she was injured at the protest
‘At a routine traffic stop, I have to make sure this moment is way in the back of my mind,’ Ratlieff said. ‘I can’t react in any way. I can’t show any discomfort, because I’m not sure how that officer might react.’
I’m okay. My eye will heal. I was able to come home. But, George Floyd and many others did not,’ she wrote to Instagram.
Miami Herald reporters later returned to the scene and found a cartridge labeled ’40 mm Foam Baton’ which they believe is the one used on Ratlieff.
Foam baton are lethal munition when aimed at the head meaning that Ratlieff’s shooting may have violated Fort Lauderdale Police Department’ policy on proper use of so-called ‘less lethal munitions’.
The projectile would have crashed into her head at more than twice the speed of a Major League fastball.
According to the department’s website, offices should aim the rubber bullets at the head ‘only if deadly force becomes necessary’.
Protesters gather at Fort Lauderdale Police Department during a rally in response to the recent death of George Floyd in Fort Lauderdale. Latoya Ratlieff had attempted to deescalate an incident between protesters and police after the protest but was hit with a rubber bullet
Protest leader address the crowds as they gather at Fort Lauderdale Police Department on Sunday. Ratlieff suffered a cracked skull after returned from this protest
‘For safety reasons the deploying officer utilizing a less-lethal weapon should not aim at the head, throat, face, or groin area of a suspect. … The potential for causing death or serious physical injury by such projectiles is a reality,’ it states.
The Fort Lauderdale police department state that no officer had been relieved of duty because of the incidental and they had no ‘specific information’.
‘A civil disturbance is a rapidly evolving situation, where people are moving fluidly,’ the statement said.
‘In these circumstances, despite our best efforts, a person or persons may be unintentionally struck with a less-lethal projectile. Our policy permits the use of less-lethal munitions such as foam batons. Our intent is to disperse a crowd, not to cause injury.’
Scott Ross, who was photographing the protests, told the Miami Herald: ‘The tear gas is working. People are running away. Why are they shooting people in the back? It appeared punitive.’
The line of cops in riots gear had been staging outside of a parking garage despite some of the protesters having parked in there.
The cops are said to have continued to clash with groups of protesters in the area after Ratlieff was brought to hospital.
At 8.30pm an alert was issued that a 9pm curfew would be implemented and those who defied it would be arrested.
The Miami Herald states that more than 50 officers lined the park where the protesters had gathered peacefully earlier that day and a sound cannon was used to drive people away, but no arrests were made.
The demonstration had been organized by Black Lives Matter to protest the death of George Floyd and other black people killed by the police.
Officer Steven Pohorence is seen above shouting at protesters before pushing the woman. The demonstrators are said to have begun throwing bottles afterward which led to Ratlieff’s injury as she tried to encourage the protesters to remain peaceful and took a knee
It is estimated that 1,500 attended and they were told by organizers not to engage with police officers.
They marched from Huizenga Park in downtown Fort Lauderdale to the police headquarters.
Volunteers, who were picked by organizers, before the protest stayed between demonstrators and the police lining the route.
There were no incidents with the police and the group returned to the park by 6.15pm where they were told by organizers to disperse.
Protesters say, however, that a group of young people joined the march as it headed back to the park and reacted to the riot squad in the garage.
‘Why was the riot squad in the garage in the first place?’ said Narnike Grant, a march volunteer.
‘With these young kids, they’re hasty, they don’t think, they see the riot gear and they think, “Oh you’re ready for me, I’m ready for you.” … Especially with kids like that who’ve been cooped up because of the pandemic.’
‘The police ignited the situation,’ Grant added. ‘When you start presenting yourselves as ‘this is war,’ you’re only going to get what you put out there. And you’re supposed to be setting the example.’
It is unclear how it escalated but police said an officer sent a distress signal that her car was surrounded which caused Pohorence to push into the crowd, which in turn would lead to Ratlieff’s injury.
The mayor Fort Lauderdale has claimed that nobody should have stayed around after the protest.
‘There would be no reason why I would stay there if I saw tear gas and rocks being thrown,’ he said.
Protests continue across the country after the death of George Floyd in police custody on Memorial Day.
All four of the officers involved in Floyd’s death have now been charged and face 40 years behind bars.
Derek Chauvin, shown in a video kneeling on Floyd’s neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds while arresting him, was arrested and charged with murder last Friday.
Thomas Lane, J.A. Kueng and Tou Thao, the three now dismissed officers who were also there, were charged with aiding and abetting second degree murder on Wednesday.