Man's Eye 'Exploded' After LAPD Shot Him With Less-Lethal Round As Crowds Celebrated Lakers NBA Win

At least three men were hospitalized with head injuries after Los Angeles police officers struck them with "less-lethal" projectiles as they celebrated the Lakers' NBA championship win.

The Los Angeles Times reported that William Gonzalez, 22, underwent extensive reconstructive surgery after a hard-foam projectile fired by police struck him in the right eye, shattering the socket, in downtown Los Angeles on Sunday night.

Doctors told the newspaper that the projectile "exploded" Gonzalez's eyeball and he will never see out of it again.

Dr. David Samimi, one of the doctors who operated on Gonzalez at California Hospital Medical Center, said "the best-case scenario" would be that Gonzalez gets to keep the eye in his head without any sight. But he says the eye will likely have to be removed.

Another man who was shot in the mouth lost eight teeth and part of his lip, his family told the Times.

Part-time photographer Manuel Barrientos had "stepped out into the street to take a picture with his camera, and that's when he felt something hit him," his brother, Jose Meza, said.

"When he looked down, he saw a little piece of his lip on the floor and he was dripping blood from his mouth."

A third man, who asked to remain anonymous, told the newspaper he was "completely blindsided" when was struck in the face while watching the celebrations with his partner.

He said they had been avoiding the "particularly rowdy" revelers in the area. The 34-year-old man, who sustained a fractured bone around his right eye and a laceration on his right cheek, said he is considering litigation.

Under the Los Angeles Police Department's (LAPD) current policy, foam rounds are only supposed to be aimed at the belt line of someone who presents a threat to officers, never at people's heads or necks, The Times reported. They shouldn't be fired into crowds or at people running away.

The LAPD has been contacted for comment.

In a news release on Monday, the police department said three people were taken to hospitals after being injured by the so-called less lethal munitions fired by officers on Sunday. Eight officers were treated for injuries, police said.

Officers made dozens of arrests after declaring an unlawful assembly after huge numbers of Lakers fans arrived in downtown Los Angeles to celebrate the team winning its first NBA title in a decade, despite officials warning people to avoid gathering due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Lakers beat the Miami Heat 106-93 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, to win the NBA Finals in six games on Sunday night.

Videos posted on social media showed cars doing doughnuts and fireworks being set off in the street near the Staples Center, the team's home court.

Police said that while the crowd of around 1,000 people had been mostly peaceful to start with, some "unruly individuals" mixed within the crowd and threw glass, bottles, rocks and other objects at officers.

"That is when an unlawful assembly was declared, and only a limited number of people complied and began to disperse," police said. "A larger portion of the group broke off and began vandalizing businesses while continuing to engage in violent behavior, some aimed at responding officers."

Later in the evening, videos showed people looting a Starbucks.

The LAPD said 76 people were arrested, including for vandalism, assault on a police offficer, and failure to disperse. More than 30 buildings and businesses were damaged, as well as a city bus, police said.

This article has been updated with additional information from police.

LAPD
Law enforcement officers prepare to disperse a crowd of Lakers fans near the Staples Center on October 11 in Los Angeles, California. Brandon Bell/Getty Images