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Austin teen hospitalized with head injury after police shoot him with bean bags at protest

APD officers carry Ayala after he’s shot in head with bean bags. (Credit: Megan Coleman)
APD officers carry Ayala after he’s shot in head with bean bags. (Credit: Megan Coleman)
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An Austin teen remains hospitalized after he was shot in the face by police at weekend protests.

Video posted on social media shows 16-year-old Brad Levi Ayala shot in the head with what police are calling "bean bag ammunition." In the video he's standing still and alone on a hill in a blue shirt and khaki pants. In the bottom right-hand corner of the video you can see a uniformed officer raise something to his face, there's a loud crack and you see the young man instantly go limp before the officer's arms go back down.

"They shot his face. That is not okay," says Edwin Sanchez, Ayala's brother.

Another video from the ground shows people rush to Ayala's aid carrying him down a hill while asking him questions to keep him conscious.

RELATED: APD resources stretched thin during protests

Sanchez spoke with CBS Austin outside of Dell Children's Medical Center Monday. He says after a seven-hour surgery they learned his brother won't have permanent brain damage, but his recovery won't be easy either. He needed a skin graft and will have a permanent scar on his head. He also continues to be at risk for infection.

"He's strong. He's a strong guy and he's going to be fine, but he's just in a lot of pain," says Sanchez. He explains, Ayala went to the protest alone after wrapping up his shift at an Austin deli. He was still in his work uniform and wanted to witness everything for himself but his family ended up seeing something else.

"I saw police officers not seeing the humanity in him--- not seeing the kindness that he is--- not seeing him for what I see. They saw a monster and they treated him like that," says Sanchez.

A GoFundMe to cover medical expenses and possibly legal action has raised more than $10,000 in less than 24 hours. According to family, Ayala has three injuries—they say he was shot in the skull and twice in the torso.

Monday evening Austin Police Chief Brain Manley said the police department was investigating what happened to Ayala as well as another incident where a 20-year-old man -- who was also shot in the head -- remains in critical condition.

"It's not just my brother. It's countless teenagers who look just like him. They're treating them like animals... like monsters and that's not okay," says Sanchez.

Manley says no officers have been removed from duty while their use of force at the protest is being investigated. He says the department is reviewing the tactics used against protesters over the weekend. APD says no live rounds were fired but multiple officers fired 12-gauge shotguns loaded with bean bags at protesters. He's expected to address use-of-force concerns expressed by Austin City Council members at a meeting on Thursday.

Note: Ayala's family says he was shot with rubber bullets. Austin Police say he was shot with bean bag ammunition. An earlier version of this story included a viral social media post viewed more than 11,000 times showing Ayala being hit with bean bags by police. Late Monday Ayala's sister requested the video not be published because she does not want what happened to her brother to be used as an excuse for violence or hatred.

According to APD's handbook, officers use modified 12-gauge shotguns that are "less lethal" in "an attempt to de-escalate a potentially deadly situation." The handbook says when someone is engaged in riotous behavior, throwing rocks, bottles or other dangerous projectiles at people or officers, creating a risk for injury – it's appropriate to use what protesters saw this weekend.

On Monday, Brian Manley said the use of the "less lethal" weapon put a 20-year-old black man in critical condition.

Manley said overhead HALO cameras caught the victim throwing a water bottle at police guarding APD headquarters on Sunday. The victim was with another person who spun a backpack 360 degrees to gain velocity and flung it toward the officers. Manley said one of the officers fired a bean bag round intended for the man who threw the backpack but instead hit the 20-year-old man in the head.

"It appears he hit his head when he fell to the ground as well," said Manley.

Video obtained by CBS Austin shows people screaming at police and carrying a woman believed to be pregnant to safety. Chief Manley confirmed the African American woman was shot in her belly with a bean bag ammo. She was brought into APD headquarters where she was treated before she was taken to the hospital.

"This is not what we set out to do in the police department," said Chief Manley,

He said he was "crushed" about the violence that took place during the protests. "I've cried a few times today," he said during a virtual press conference on Monday.

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He was asked what he'd say to the parents of the victim injured in this weekend's protest aimed to honor George Floyd, Austin's-own Mike Ramos and changes to the criminal justice system. "I am praying for your child. I hope they have a complete and quick recovery," he said.

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