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Austin police chief says no more beanbag rounds in crowds

Demonstrators face members of the Austin Police Department as they gather in downtown Austin, Texas, Thursday, June 4, 2020, to protest the death of George Floyd, a black man who was in police custody in Minneapolis. Floyd died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers on Memorial Day.(AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Demonstrators face members of the Austin Police Department as they gather in downtown Austin, Texas, Thursday, June 4, 2020, to protest the death of George Floyd, a black man who was in police custody in Minneapolis. Floyd died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers on Memorial Day.(AP Photo/Eric Gay) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

AUSTIN, Texas – AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Austin’s police chief said Thursday his department will no longer fire beanbag rounds into crowds after a teenage boy was critically hurt during a weekend protest when he was shot in the head when an officer fired the ammunition that is considered a less-lethal use of force.

Police Chief Brian Manley announced the amended policy during a special meeting of the Austin City Council, where hundreds of people spoke out against police brutality following nationwide unrest over the death of George Floyd, a black man who died after a white police officer pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck.

Edwin Ayala, the brother of 16-year-old Brad Levi Ayala, who is hospitalized after being hit by the beanbag round during a Saturday demonstration, pleaded for witnesses and police to contact the family with video of the moment his brother was shot so they can understand how it happened.

"We just want to know the truth. We just want as much transparency from the police to know what happened,” Edwin Alaya said via phone during the council meeting.

Edwin Alaya said his younger brother has a deep puncture, a brain contusion and a skull fracture that required a seven-hour surgery.

“We thought he was going to die,” Edwin Ayala said in tears.

Manley made only a brief statement about the department’s change in practice.

"It is still an appropriate tool in other circumstances so it is still approved for use, however not in crowd situations,” Manley said. He did not elaborate.

But Austin City Councilman Gregorio Casar, who was among council members who expressed disappointment in how Austin police responded to protesters, pushed back. He said he had seen a video of Levi Ayala being shot by the beanbag round and that the teen was not in a crowd, but standing alone.

“This is not enough," Casar said.

Levi Ayala is expected to make a slow recovery, according to his family, but he has damage to the pre-frontal cortex, which causes problems processing and balancing emotions. A GoFundMe page for the family set up by Edwin Ayala has raised over $140,000 as of Thursday.

More than 360 people signed up to speak to the council during the online meeting, many calling for Manley and the officers responsible to be fired. Many government meetings have moved online to allow social distancing to fight the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

Dozens of University of Texas football players marched Thursday with Austin police officers from campus to the state Capitol to honor the Floyd’s memory in just one of the latest demonstrations to take place across Texas and the U.S.

In Dallas on Thursday, Police Chief Renee Hall announced her department would not file charges against more than 600 protesters arrested Monday night during a largely peaceful demonstration that police ended after the group marched onto a bridge. A police spokeswoman previously said the protesters who were arrested and not sent to jail would face charges of obstructing a roadway.

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Acacia Coronado is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.