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May 16 2024 KFF Health News

Inside the protesters’ encampment at UCLA, beneath the glow of hanging flashlights and a deafening backdrop of exploding flash-bangs, OB-GYN resident Elaine Chan suddenly felt like a battlefield medic.

Police were pushing into the camp after an hours-long standoff. Chan, 31, a medical tent volunteer, said protesters limped in with severe puncture wounds, but there was little hope of getting them to a hospital through the chaos outside. Chan suspects the injuries were caused by rubber bullets or other "less lethal" projectiles, which police have confirmed were fired at protesters.

"It would pierce through skin and gouge deep into people's bodies," she said. "All of them were profusely bleeding. In OB-GYN we don't treat rubber bullets. … I couldn't believe that this was allowed to be [done to] civilians — students — without protective gear."

The UCLA protest, which gathered thousands in opposition to Israel's ongoing bombing of Gaza, began in April and grew to a dangerous crescendo this month when counterprotesters and police clashed with the activists and their supporters.

In interviews with KFF Health News, Chan and three other volunteer medics described treating protesters with bleeding wounds, head injuries, and suspected broken bones in a makeshift clinic cobbled together in tents with no electricity or running water. The medical tents were staffed day and night by a rotating team of doctors, nurses, medical students, EMTs, and volunteers with no formal medical training.

At times, the escalating violence outside the tent isolated injured protesters from access to ambulances, the medics said, so the wounded walked to a nearby hospital or were carried beyond the borders of the protest so they could be driven to the emergency room.

"I've never been in a setting where we're blocked from getting higher level of care," Chan said. "That was terrifying to me."

Three of the medics interviewed by KFF Health News said they were present when police swept the encampment May 2 and described multiple injuries that appeared to have been caused by "less lethal" projectiles.

Less lethal projectiles — including beanbags filled with metal pellets, sponge-tipped rounds, and projectiles commonly known as rubber bullets — are used by police to subdue suspects or disperse crowds or protests. Police drew widespread condemnation for using the weapons against Black Lives Matter demonstrations that swept the country after the killing of George Floyd in 2020. Although the name of these weapons downplays their danger, less lethal projectiles can travel upward of 200 mph and have a documented potential to injure, maim, or kill.

The medics' interviews directly contradict an account from the Los Angeles Police Department. After police cleared the encampment, LAPD Chief Dominic Choi said in a post on the social platform X that there were "no serious injuries to officers or protestors” as police moved in and made more than 200 arrests.

In response to questions from KFF Health News, both the LAPD and California Highway Patrol said in emailed statements that they would investigate how their officers responded to the protest. The LAPD statement said the agency was conducting a review of how it and other law enforcement agencies responded, which would lead to a "detailed report."

The Highway Patrol statement said officers warned the encampment that "non-lethal rounds" may be used if protesters did not disperse, and after some became an "immediate threat" by "launching objects and weapons," some officers used "kinetic specialty rounds to protect themselves, other officers, and members of the public." One officer received minor injuries, according to the statement.

Video footage that circulated online after the protest appeared to show a Highway Patrol officer firing less lethal projectiles at protesters with a shotgun.

"The use of force and any incident involving the use of a weapon by CHP personnel is a serious matter, and the CHP will conduct a fair and impartial investigation to ensure that actions were consistent with policy and the law," the Highway Patrol said in its statement.

The UCLA Police Department, which was also involved with the protest response, did not respond to requests for comment.

Jack Fukushima, 28, a UCLA medical student and volunteer medic, said he witnessed a police officer shoot at least two protesters with less lethal projectiles, including a man who collapsed after being hit "square in the chest." Fukushima said he and other medics escorted the stunned man to the medical tent then returned to the front lines to look for more injured.

"It did really feel like a war," Fukushima said. "To be met with such police brutality was so disheartening."

Back on the front line, police had breached the borders of the encampment and begun to scrum with protesters, Fukushima said. He said he saw the same officer who had fired earlier shoot another protester in the neck.

The protester dropped to the ground. Fukushima assumed the worst and rushed to his side.

"I find him, and I'm like, 'Hey, are you OK?'" Fukushima said. "To the point of courage of these undergrads, he's like, 'Yeah, it's not my first time.' And then just jumps right back in."

Sonia Raghuram, 27, another medical student stationed in the tent, said that during the police sweep she tended to a protester with an open puncture wound on their back, another with a quarter-sized contusion in the center of their chest, and a third with a "gushing" cut over their right eye and possible broken rib. Raghuram said patients told her the wounds were caused by police projectiles, which she said matched the severity of their injuries.

The patients made it clear the police officers were closing in on the medical tent, Raghuram said, but she stayed put. Related StoriesWearable biosensors with skin interfaces for newborn and neonatal health monitoringStranded in the ER, seniors await hospital care and suffer avoidable harmResearchers aim to use AI for early screening and prognosis of Dry Eye Disease

"We will never leave a patient," she said, describing the mantra in the medical tent. "I don't care if we get arrested. If I'm taking care of a patient, that's the thing that comes first."

The UCLA protest is one of many that have been held on college campuses across the country as students opposed to Israel's ongoing war in Gaza demand universities support a ceasefire or divest from companies tied to Israel. Police have used force to remove protesters at Columbia University, Emory University, and the universities of Arizona, Utah, and South Florida, among others.

At UCLA, student protesters set up a tent encampment on April 25 in a grassy plaza outside the campus's Royce Hall theater, eventually drawing thousands of supporters, according to the Los Angeles Times. Days later, a "violent mob" of counterprotesters "attacked the camp," the Times reported, attempting to tear down barricades along its borders and throwing fireworks at the tents inside.

The following night, police issued an unlawful assembly order, then swept the encampment in the early hours of May 2, clearing tents and arresting hundreds by dawn.

Police have been widely criticized for not intervening as the clash between protesters and counterprotesters dragged on for hours. The University of California system announced it has hired an independent policing consultant to investigate the violence and "resolve unanswered questions about UCLA's planning and protocols, as well as the mutual aid response."

Charlotte Austin, 34, a surgery resident, said that as counterprotesters were attacking she also saw about 10 private campus security officers stand by, "hands in their pockets," as students were bashed and bloodied.

Austin said she treated patients with cuts to the face and possible skull fractures. The medical tent sent at least 20 people to the hospital that evening, she said.

"Any medical professional would describe these as serious injuries," Austin said. "There were people who required hospitalization — not just a visit to the emergency room — but actual hospitalization." Police tactics 'lawful but awful'

UCLA protesters are far from the first to be injured by less lethal projectiles.

In recent years, police across the U.S. have repeatedly fired these weapons at protesters, with virtually no overarching standards governing their use or safety. Cities have spent millions to settle lawsuits from the injured. Some of the wounded have never been the same.

During the nationwide protests following the police killing of George Floyd in 2020, at least 60 protesters sustained serious injuries — including blinding and a broken jaw — from being shot with these projectiles, sometimes in apparent violations of police department policies, according to a joint investigation by KFF Health News and USA Today.

In 2004, in Boston, a college student celebrating a Red Sox victory was killed by a projectile filled with pepper-based irritant when it tore through her eye and into her brain.

"They're called less lethal for a reason," said Jim Bueermann, a former police chief of Redlands, California, who now leads the Future Policing Institute. "They can kill you."

Bueermann, who reviewed video footage of the police response at UCLA at the request of KFF Health News, said the footage shows California Highway Patrol officers firing beanbag rounds from a shotgun. Bueermann said the footage did not provide enough context to determine if the projectiles were being used "reasonably," which is a standard established by federal courts, or being fired "indiscriminately," which was outlawed by a California law in 2021.

"There is a saying in policing — 'lawful but awful' — meaning that it was reasonable under the legal standards but it looks terrible," Bueermann said. "And I think a cop racking multiple rounds into a shotgun, firing into protesters, doesn't look very good."

This article was produced by KFF Health News, which publishes California Healthline, an editorially independent service of the California Health Care Foundation. 

This article was reprinted from khn.org, a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism about health issues and is one of the core operating programs at KFF – the independent source for health policy research, polling, and journalism. Source:

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Tornadoes leave trail of death and destruction across parts of US

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Tornadoes leave trail of death and destruction across parts of US

Powerful storms have killed at least 15 people and left a trail of destruction in their wake as they swept across parts of the central United States.

A tornado tore through a rural area in northern Texas, near the Oklahoma border, on Saturday night, killing at least seven people.

Cooke County sheriff Ray Sappington said two children, aged two and five, were among the victims, with numerous injuries also reported.

He said some of the many trailer homes in the area were “completely gone”, while others suffered massive damage from the storm which left a quarter of a mile-wide path of destruction for three to four miles.

“It’s just a trail of debris left,” he said. “The devastation is pretty severe.”

Storms also killed two people and destroyed houses in Oklahoma, where guests at an outdoor wedding were injured, while at least five people were killed in Arkansas, including a 26-year-old woman.

Elsewhere, a man was killed in Louisville, Kentucky, when a tree fell on him on Sunday.

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The small community of Valley View, a town in Cooke County, where barely 800 people live, was among the hardest hit.

Kevin Dorantes, 20, said he came across a father and son trapped under the debris and friends and neighbours worked to get them out.

“They were conscious but severely injured,” he said. “The father’s leg was snapped.”

He said they managed to carry the father on a mattress to a truck and he and his son were driven to a nearby ambulance.

Juana Landeros salvages a Guadalupe Virgin statue from her destroyed home. Pic: AP
Image:
Juana Landeros salvages a Guadalupe Virgin statue from her destroyed home. Pic: AP

Hugo Parra collects belongings from his vehicle. Pic: AP
Image:
Hugo Parra collects belongings from his vehicle. Pic: AP

Hugo Parra said he sheltered with around 40 to 50 people in the bathroom of a truck stop near Valley View as the storm sheared the roof and walls off the building, mangling metal beams and leaving battered cars in the car park.

“The best way to describe this is the wind tried to rip us out of the bathrooms,” he said.

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The full scale of the devastation began to come clear on Sunday morning as aerial footage showed dozens of damaged homes, many without roofs and others reduced to rubble, as residents woke up to overturned cars and collapsed garages.

Hundreds of thousands of customers were without power across a large part of the country, including in Arkansas, Missouri and Texas on Sunday, according to poweroutages.us.

In Indiana, bad weather delayed the start of the famous Indy 500 car race.

More severe weather is expected across parts of Ohio, Kentucky, Missouri and Tennessee, with the National Weather Service warning of damaging winds, large hail and more tornadoes in the affected areas.

April and May have been a busy month for tornadoes, especially in the Midwest, with Iowa hit hard last week, when a deadly twister devastated Greenfield.

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Reds extend Dodgers’ skid to 5; Ohtani at ‘90%’

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Reds extend Dodgers' skid to 5; Ohtani at '90%'

The Los Angeles Dodgers are in the midst of their longest losing streak since 2019, but first baseman Freddie Freeman has no doubt that there’s no concern.

“It’s May, it’s baseball,” Freeman said. “Two weeks ago, we were winning every game. I don’t think anybody needs to question in our lineup. We’ll be fine.”

The Cincinnati Reds finished off a sweep of the Dodgers with a 4-1 victory Sunday, extending LA’s slide to five games — it’s longest since dropping six in a row April 8-13, 2019.

Dodgers star Shohei Ohtani went 3-for-12 in the series while dealing with a bruised right hamstring. He batted second Sunday and went 1-for-3 as the designated hitter, reaching on an infield single while scoring the Dodgers’ only run.

“It’s right around 90%,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said of Ohtani’s hamstring. “Assuming it will keep getting better, I feel confident that he can play smart and not push it. Talked to him about not trying to steal a base. Be smart. The value of having him in the lineup is everything.”

Los Angeles’ lineup has been hampered by inconsistency. The Dodgers scored six times in the series opener, and then scored two more over the next two games.They have been shut out twice this month while scoring two or fewer runs six times.

“When you’re not hitting, it certainly seems lifeless,” Roberts said. “Seems like we’re running cold. I know it’s not from care or preparation. Bottom line, it’s about results and we’re not getting them right now. They outplayed us this series and won three.”

Roberts hinted at a couple of changes to the lineup when the Dodgers begin a three-game series against the New York Mets at Citi Field.

“Some guys might be pressing a little bit,” Roberts said. “Every time I write the lineup, I feel good that we’re going to put up some runs. It’s not a big picture-type thing. It’s certainly been two weeks where it hasn’t been good.”

Jonathan India and Nick Martini each drove in two runs for the Reds, and Brent Suter, Nick Martinez, Carson Spiers and Alexis Diaz combined for a five-hitter.

Martinez (2-3) pitched 4⅓ innings of one-hit ball on a bullpen day for Cincinnati, and Díaz got two outs for his 10th save.

“It starts with our pitchers,” Reds manager David Bell said. “They’re ready to take the ball. Starting with Brent Suter, who did his job. That’s where it starts. Nick Martinez took over. Nick continues to show when he executes his pitches how good he is. To pitch so well against this team really says a lot.”

Freeman hit an RBI double in the ninth, stopping a 0-for-22 slide for the Dodgers with runners in scoring position. Freeman then advanced on defensive indifference, but Díaz struck out Teoscar Hernandez and Andy Pages swinging.

The start of the game was moved up from 1:40 p.m. EDT to 12:10 p.m. due to the threat of severe storms that arrived in the sixth inning. The teams then waited through a delay for just over an hour.

Cincinnati scored four times in the third off Yoshinobu Yamamoto (5-2). India had a bases-loaded single, and Martini’s bloop hit scored two more.

Yamamoto allowed six hits, struck out eight and walked two in five innings.

“They found a way to fight with two outs and find some outfield grass,” Roberts said. “They stayed inside the baseball. When you fight, you get those breaks sometimes. Outside of that, I thought Yoshi was fantastic. He was one hitter away from going five scoreless.”

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Dodgers: Right-hander Gavin Stone (4-2, 3.60 ERA) will oppose Mets right-hander Tylor Megill (0-2, 3.00 ERA) on Monday in the opener of a three-game series.

Reds: Left-hander Nick Lodolo (3-2, 3.34 ERA) will come off the injured list to start the series opener against the Cardinals on Monday. Lance Lynn (2-2, 3.68 ERA) starts for St. Louis.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Tigers blow 5-run lead, rally with 3-run HR in 9th

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Tigers blow 5-run lead, rally with 3-run HR in 9th

DETROIT — Matt Vierling homered twice, including a tiebreaking, three-run drive off Jordan Romano in the ninth inning that gave Detroit a wild 14-11 win over the Toronto Blue Jays on Sunday after the Tigers wasted a five-run lead and recovered from a two-run deficit.

Vierling had four hits and tied career highs with two homers and four RBIs.

“My brother and I in the back yard, we’d always be doing situations like that,” Vierling said. “It’s kind of cool when it actually happens.”

Carson Kelly hit a three-run homer and Spencer Torkelson hit a solo shot for Detroit, which led 5-0 after three innings, 8-3 after five and 9-5 after six. The Tigers set a season high for runs and tied their high with 17 hits.

Torkelson had three hits and scored three runs.

“He’s really easy to root for,” Torkelson said of Vierling. “To see him come through, we had all the faith in the world and confidence he’d get the job done there. That’s exactly what he did.”

Toronto’s Isiah Kiner-Falefa homered in the seventh off Tyler Holton, and the Blue Jays took an 11-9 lead with a five-run eighth when Bo Bichette hit a two-run single off Jason Foley and Daulton Varsho hit a three-run homer.

Toronto manager John Schneider drew some consolation by the way his team kept fighting back.

“It’s easy to kind of quit after that and the guys did the exact opposite,” he said. “Chipped away and came back with huge hits from Bo and Varsh.”

Mark Canha tied the score with a two-run single against Yimi Garcia in the bottom half, his third hit.

Vierling, who hit a solo homer in the fifth off Zach Pop, drove a full-count slider from Romano (1-2) over the left-field wall for his first big league walk-off hit. A two-time All-Star, Romano has allowed three homers this year, half his total last season.

“I was ready for that pitch that he threw me 3-2,” Vierling said. “I was kind of looking for it 2-2, as well, but it was low and I was able to check my swing enough. The next pitch was the same pitch, just a little more up.”

Mason Englert (1-0) pitched a hitless ninth for the Tigers (26-27), who won the last three games of a four-game series against the last-place Blue Jays (23-29).

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. had his second four-hit game of the season for the Blue Jays.

Detroit starter Casey Mize gave up three runs and eight hits in 4⅓ innings. Toronto’s Yusei Kikuchi allowed five runs and eight hits in three innings. Mize and Kikuchi are 0-3 each in their six starts.

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