“Less-lethal” Weapons and the death of Linda Tirado

Cam Gordon


Linda Tirado is dying.
On May 29, 2020, author, journalist and photographer Linda Tirado was injured by a police officer while covering the civil unrest in south Minneapolis.
In a lawsuit she filed later, she said that a police officer shot her in the face with a 40 mm impact round, rupturing her left eye and causing a brain injury.

She was blinded in that eye and the brain damage has worsened over time. She recently lost the use of her legs, is showing signs of dementia and has entered hospice care.
Tirado was born in Tennessee and started covering civil unrest in 2014 in Ferguson. She is a 41-year-old mother of 2, who is looking forward to being there for her daughter’s 14th birthday celebration and getting ready to die.
She said this June that she is too scared to come back to Minneapolis, but she often thinks of the people here. “I’m feeling so proud,” she said. “It didn’t need to be in Minneapolis or Minnesota, but it was. I am so, so proud that people there haven’t stopped holding power to account. That the people are still out there doing what they can when they can, is so heartening.”
“Half of Minneapolis is bullshit and half of it is not,” she added. “And the half that isn’t is amazing.”

Linda Tirado

She is dying from injuries she suffered from a projectile shot by a public city employee with publicly purchased weapons.
Isn’t it time we stop using them?
In 2021, researchers from the University of Minnesota published a short article called “Injuries from Less-Lethal Weapons during the George Floyd Protests in Minneapolis” in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Researchers Erika Kaske, B.S., Rachel Hardeman, Ph.D., MPH, and David Darrow, M.D., MPH, from the University of Minnesota Medical School and School of Public Health, presented their findings to the City Council that March.
Their review of medical records from the time found that 57 people required professional medical care for projectile injuries and that 40 percent of those injuries were head injuries. They concluded that the “projectiles are inherently inaccurate and that those inaccuracies are worsened in a crowd control setting.”
In April of 2021, the city council approved a resolution opposing any use of them and called on the mayor and others in a position of authority over law enforcement personnel to end their use in Minneapolis.
A city attorney memo made it clear that under the city charter, the council doesn’t have authority to ban them, unlike Philadelphia where they have been banned. The mayor continued to allow their use.

Linda Tirado prior to her injury

Tirado is not the only one.
Also in May of 2020, according to another lawsuit, Norman Truman suffered a fractured skull, and a traumatic brain injury when he was hit in the head by a 40 mm projectile. He died in a coma in August 4 of 2021 after suffering brain swelling. The city settled the case for $15,000 in March of 2022.
In February of 2022, the city paid $2.4 million to settle a lawsuit with Soren Stevenson who was also shot and blinded in one eye with a projectile in 2020.
In May of 2022, the city approved a $600,000 settlement in Tirado’s lawsuit.
When Judge John Tunheim denied the city and Bob Kroll’s motions to dismiss Tirado’s case, he noted, “two photos taken by Tirado moments before the officer(s) shot the foam bullet(s) show police aiming 40 mm launchers toward Tirado,” and “that numerous other journalists experienced similar, seemingly unjustified incidents involving less-lethal munitions and other measures is even more troubling.”
In the settlement, the city did not admit any wrongdoing or make any promises about changing practices.
The city’s agreement with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights could have prohibited the deadly and dangerous practice, but it did not.
To this day, the city allows their use “in situations where maximum deliverable energy is desired for the incapacitation of an aggressive, non-compliant subject,” including “for crowd control purposes or during civil disturbances and assemblies.” It also says that officers shall be aware that the impact to some parts of the body “can lead to a permanent physical or mental incapacity or possible death.” And that officers are not to “intentionally discharge less-lethal impact munitions at a person’s head, neck, throat, face, armpit, spine, kidneys, or groin unless deadly force would be justified.”
City policy further states that “The 40 mm launcher can be a psychological deterrent and physiological distraction serving as a pain compliance device,” and that they “shall be assigned to each precinct, City Hall and specialty units as needed.”
The much-anticipated consent decree with the Department of Justice could include a prohibition.
Maybe we could do it now for Linda, for Norman and for all the others. Maybe we can do it so it never happens again.
“Getting ready to die is just as dramatic as it seems in the movies,” Tirado wrote in June. “There’s a lot of opera in the background while you try to take care of the paperwork, of the last details, of the tiny things that you’ve left to the last minute, the things only you can take care of but that would be a burden if you left them behind. And at the same time, none of it matters. Why bother paying a bill or sweeping a floor or leaving a note? It’s not for your own sake. It’s for everyone else, so they know you loved them best as you could. That, in the actual factual end, is all that matters.”
Tirado shows us that we are a long way from healing from the trauma of 2020 and that there are some injuries that may never heal. I wish we had loved her better.
Although Tirado received a settlement from Minneapolis, she donated some of it to others and most of the rest is gone to cover medical expenses. Her family is struggling to afford palliative care. If you wish to contribute, you can at Venmo: Linda-Tirado-3.

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