LA MESA, Calif. — Three people were seriously injured with bean bag rounds during recent protests in La Mesa, but what are bean bag rounds, and should police be using them at all?
They may be called bean bag rounds, but they're more closely related to shotgun shells.
During last weekend's protests in La Mesa, a grandmother was shot in the head with a bean bag round. Two other people were hit in the head, as well.
The grandmother, Leslie Furcron, remains in the hospital with serious injuries.
Police Chief Walt Vasquez said Wednesday that the La Mesa Police officer who shot Furcron was aiming at her body, not her head.
“The initial aim was towards the torso area as trained,” the Chief Vasquez said.
Furcron’s attorney, Dante Pride, said officers should not be firing bean bag rounds indiscriminately into a crowd.
“These are projectiles being fired at hundreds of feet per second. Now, when they fire that above the waist, even in their own use of force manual, that manual tells you above the waist turns yellow, which is a harder hit; and then red, which is potentially fatal,” Pride said.
News 8 recovered one of the bean bag rounds at the scene of the La Mesa protests. It consists of a small, cloth sack filled with lead shotgun pellets about 2mm in diameter.
“Yeah, so that would be #9 lead shot. That's very typical. It has to be heavy enough to actually deter the person and be an impact,” said David Chong, the owner of AO Sword Firearms in El Cajon.
We asked the gun store owner about aiming a bean bag round.
“You don't aim for someone's head per se, certainly not on purpose, and you couldn't even do it if you tried. It veers off course because of its very nature. Think of it as a hacky sack flying through the air. It doesn't fly like an arrow,” said Chong. “It’s ballistically unstable.”
Add to those ballistics the atmosphere of a riot and one can see how someone might get hit in the head.
“If less-than-lethal projectiles such as bean bags were shot from the balcony of the police headquarters into the crowd as a deterrent, unfortunately that would put people's upper body, including the head, in the flight path of the projectile; and a head could have accidentally been hit,” Chong said.
The family of grandmother Leslie Fulcron has raised more than $150,000 dollars on its GoFundMe page. The family said Fulcron is off the ventilator and able to speak now. She could be out of the ICU by Friday.
There is an effort in the state legislature to put restrictions on police use of rubber bullets, which are different than bean bag rounds. The legislation is in its early stages, and sponsored locally by Assemblywomen Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) and Dr. Shirley Weber (D-San Diego).