Denver protest bystander blind in one eye after being hit by police with “less lethal” projectile

Jax Feldmann wasn’t protesting when a law enforcement officer riding on the back of a Denver Police Department truck fired a projectile at his face without warning and blinded him in one eye.

Feldmann, a 21-year-old delivery driver with Denver’s River Bear American Meats, was walking about 9:30 p.m. May 30 from his friend’s apartment at Grant Street and Colfax Avenue to his car parked a block away on Sherman Street. It was the first night that Denver was under an 8 p.m. curfew due to ongoing protests of police brutality, but Feldmann was trying to get home, he said.

“I literally just saw the cops come around then I was blinded,” Feldmann said Monday in an interview with The Denver Post.

Feldmann’s injury is one of many reported by bystanders, peaceful protesters and news reporters during the four days of protest where police officers fired tear gas, foam bullets and pepper balls into crowds. Denver police Chief Paul Pazen has promised to look into all accounts of unwarranted use of force by officers during the protest, though he has said that officers primarily used force when people in the crowd were throwing objects or attacking officers.

Denver police spokesman Jay Casillas said in an email Monday that the department is looking into the incident and would provide a response once the administration knows more.

There were no large groups of protesters nearby when he was shot, Feldmann said, and he didn’t see anybody yell at or throw anything at the officers on the truck, marked with the Denver Police Department logo.

Feldmann said he didn’t see what hit him, but that he reached his hand up to his face and felt blood. His friend called 911 and Feldmann was transported to Denver Health via ambulance.

Alone in the hospital, Feldman was told by doctors that they would have to perform emergency surgery to save his eye. The next day, his parents flew from their home in Dubuque, Iowa, to help him.

The surgeon who operated on Feldmann’s eye told his mother that the damage was consistent with a rubber bullet, Tammy Feldmann said. Jax Feldmann said he ruled out the possibility that he was struck with a pepper ball because he didn’t feel any burning in his eyes.

“It’s been a nightmare and it’s affected everyone in our family,” Tammy Feldmann said.

Jax Feldmann said that in the best case scenario his eye might heal enough that he can see some shapes. Worst case, doctors will have to remove his eye. As of Monday, Feldmann had no sight in his left eye.

“Everybody should be mad about this,” said attorney Birk Baumgartner, who is representing Feldmann. “This could be anybody’s brother or son or daughter.”

Tammy Feldmann said she called the Denver Police Department and a representative told her she could file a report at any precinct. She then went to District 1 and was told to call internal affairs. Jax Feldmann then called the internal affairs number provided by the district and left a message, but has not heard back from the department.

“That’s what makes me really mad,” Tammy Feldmann said. “They’re there to protect and serve. They’re not there to cause harm and injury. Jax is not short. And to have that hit him square in the eye, they’re shooting for heads.”

A federal judge strongly chastised the Denver Police Department and its tactics in a late-night ruling Friday after four protesters filed a lawsuit and asked for a restraining order against the police. The judge placed restrictions on how the department uses “less lethal” projectile weapons during protests.

Feldmann said he wanted the projectiles banned.

“They shouldn’t be used,” he said. “We’re citizens, not criminals.”

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