Woman shot in face by police projectile ‘thanks God for still being here’

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LA MESA, Calif. — A local woman said she “thanks God for still being here” after she was shot in the face with a police projectile at a recent protest, in an incident that’s featured prominently in the local debate about police use-of-force policies.

Leslie Furcron, 59, was hospitalized after she was shot in the forehead with a bean bag round during the May 30 demonstrations in La Mesa. She spent several days in the intensive care unit of a local hospital in a medically induced coma, according to family, before her release earlier this week.

Furcron held a news conference outside City Hall Wednesday with her lawyer to talk about the next steps for her family.

In a brief statement, Furcron said she is a “productive member of society” who has lived in the area for three years. She said her primary interest was family, and she mentioned her pride in her grandchildren and a great-grandchild.

Furcron spoke of the difficulty she has had since the incident achieving basic tasks, such as getting dressed and ready to leave the house in the morning, and she thanked the doctors and other medical staff at the hospital where she was treated.

Her attorney, Dante Pride, argued that officers had no justification for firing on Furcron, who he said was moving away from them at the time and posed no credible threat. He said the family will fight for the City of La Mesa to pay for Furcron’s medical expenses.

Pride has also petitioned LMPD to release the name of the officer who fired the bean bag round. La Mesa Police Chief Walt Vasquez has said the department knows which officer fired the round, but they have not made the name public.

Furcron had been participating in an anti-police brutality demonstration outside La Mesa City Hall. Crowds had assembled around the city to denounce what many believed was the racially motivated arrest of Amaurie Johnson near the Grossmont Trolley Station and the death of George Floyd while being restrained by white police officers in Minneapolis.

In a livestream video that is still posted to Furcron’s Facebook page, the grandmother can be seen getting out of her car and joining a sparse group of protesters in a City Hall parking lot around dusk. She yells insults at a line of police officers from a distance, and backs further away when they deploy canisters of gas or smoke.

Around 10 minutes and 30 seconds into the video, Furcron takes a sip from a can and appears to fling it away. Because the camera is turned on Furcron at this time, it’s unclear where the can lands, though any officers shown in the video appear to be dozens of yards away.

Pride has acknowledged the can, saying Furcron “littered” but “there’s no way she had strength or power enough to throw a can from where she was hit all the way to where the officers were.”

Moments after tossing the can, viewers can hear a “pop” in the video, and Furcron falls to the floor. Eventually, people from the crowd can be seen scooping up her things and rushing Furcron through the crowd to get medical attention. She was airlifted to the hospital.

Graphic images of her wound helped the incident capture the attention of people across the county and even the state, with Gov. Gavin Newsom at one point citing the incident as an example of the need to reform use-of-force policies at protests.

As the night wore on, the protest grew increasingly violent, and rioters torched three buildings and looted several businesses.

The City of La Mesa this week released a timeline representing their own record of how things escalated from peaceful protest to violent riot. Pride called the timeline “one-sided” and “self-serving.”

“I am sincerely thankful that Ms. Furcron has been released from the hospital and is able to now heal at home with her family,” Chief Vasquez said in a statement Wednesday.

“I pray that she has a speedy and full recovery. I can assure Ms. Furcron, her family, and the public that this unfortunate incident will be fully investigated, to include an in-depth look at our crowd control practices.”

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