ALL PARTS
PART I
Scott Olsen — "I Didn't Realize How Bad It Was."

PART I - Scott Olsen“I DIDN'T REALIZE HOW BAD IT WAS.”

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Shot in the head by police firing bean-bag rounds at demonstrators, this veteran awoke from a coma, returned to protesting, and became a symbol to the Occupy movement. Ten years later, he represents a life shattered by the misuse of less-lethal munitions.

READ PART I
 
PART II
Andre Miller — What Is a Rubber Bullet?

PART II - Andre MillerWhat is a rubber bullet?

Andre Miller, who was shot in the head with a tear-gas canister in July 2020, is photographed at his home in Portland, Ore., in June 2022.

Less-lethal munitions come in all shapes and sizes and can leave behind devastating wounds. Victims of KIPs often don’t know what hit them, unless — like this Black Lives Matter protester — there’s shrapnel left behind.

READ PART II
 
PART III
Richard Moore — The Original Rubber Bullet

PART III - Richard MooreThe original rubber bullet

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This 10-year-old from Derry, Northern Ireland was shot in the face with a rubber bullet while running home from school, an attack that blinded him for life. In the decades since, the U.K. has turned away from less-lethal munitions while U.S. law enforcement has increasingly embraced them. Why?

READ PART III
 
PART IV
Victoria Snelgrove — When Things Go Wrong

PART IV - Victoria SnelgroveWhen Things Go Wrong

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Everyone knew if the Red Sox ever beat the Yankees, Boston would burst. But what actually happened when they finally won exceeded people's worst fears. How a euphoric riot, a lack of police training, and an untested less-lethal weapon left a woman dead and city leaders searching for answers.

READ PART IV
 
PART V
Minneapolis
PART VI
Austin
TIMELINE
A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE
 
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08
09
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15
THE PEOPLE VS. RUBBER BULLETSPART II

Andre MillerWhat is a rubber bullet?

BY
Linda Rodriguez McRobbie

Andre Miller, who was shot in the head with a tear-gas canister in July 2020, is photographed at his home in Portland, Ore., in June 2022.

Will Matsuda for Long Lead

A man stands in black, protective gear, while holding a bullhorn and a gas mask in front of some shelves.
Miller, wearing the gear he used to protect himself while protesting, stands in the garage where he stores his equipment.
Will Matsuda for Long Lead
Temporary fences erected in front of a courthouse in Portland, Oregon.
The Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse in downtown Portland was the scene of protests and militarized responses from federal agents sent by the Trump administration. According to the Dept. of Homeland Security Inspector General, “Not all officers completed required training; had the necessary equipment; and used consistent uniforms, devices, and operational tactics when responding to the events in Portland.”
Will Matsuda for Long Lead
Smoke fills the air as federal officers try to disperse Black Lives Matter protesters on July 22, 2020, in Portland, Ore.
Noah Berger / Associated Press

All shapes and sizes

No matter their shape, the principle behind KIPs is the same: Using kinetic impact to cause pain.

Blunt-impact projectiles

A person holds a mobile phone displaying an image of a hand holding a rubber bullet.
A woman shows an image of the rubber bullet that hit her when Lancaster police fired tear gas and less-lethal munitions at protestors on September 13, 2020, in Lancaster, Penn.
Amy Katz / ZUMA Wire / Alamy Live News
An officer handles bean-bag rounds.
An officer handles bean-bag rounds at the Port of Oakland protest on April 7, 2003, in Oakland, Calif. Fifty-eight people were injured when police used less-lethal munitions including wooden dowels, pellets, and tear gas canisters at the anti–Iraq War protest.
Raphael Gaillarde / Gamma-Rapho / Getty

Bean-bag rounds

Pellets

A protester displays a pellet and a spent casing that they are fired from.
A protester demonstrating against Chile's government in Valparaiso displays a pellet and a spent casing that they are fired from.
Rodrigo Garrido
A pair of hands hold a pile of small colorful spheres.
Lt. Sid Heal of the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department holds a handful of pepper balls, which are rounds that can be loaded with debilitating chemical agents, in a 2015 photo.
Al Seib / Los Angeles Times / Getty

Pepper balls and substance-containing KIPs

Tear gas canisters

A gloved hand holds a spent year-gas canister.
A protester displays a tear-gas canister on July 22, 2020, in Portland, Ore, the same night Andre Miller was injured by federal officers as they attempted to disperse demonstrators.
Noah Berger / Associated Press
A shotgun shell with the words "less lethal" on it is crushed on the ground.
A less-lethal shell casing is seen on the pavement the day after a protest on May 31, 2020, in Atlanta, Ga.
Elijah Nouvelage / Getty

Delivering pain compliance

KIPs’ highest-profile use is in crowd control. In those circumstances, the pain is meant to be enough to pressure people to leave the area, but not so great that they can’t do it without assistance.

A rubber bullet is on the ground.
A spent blunt-impact projectile round lies in the grass across the street from the Brooklyn Center, Minn., police headquarters on April 12, 2021, the day after demonstrators protested the killing of 20-year-old Daunte Wright by a member of the city’s police.
Stephen Maturen / Getty
A bearded man looks straight ahead.
After being struck in the head by a tear-gas canister, Miller was, in a perverse sense, lucky to have suffered “only” a traumatic brain injury. “​​They were firing canisters at us indiscriminately,” he says.
Will Matsuda for Long Lead

How KIPs injure and kill

A man stands in his kitchen looking through paperwork.
Miller reviews medical bills in his kitchen. After being hit in the head by a tear-gas canister, he needed help from a variety of medical and mental health professionals, including a therapist, a chiropractor, and an acupuncturist. His treatments cost $10,000.
Will Matsuda for Long Lead

Bean-bag rounds also “have a propensity to embed [themselves] into the body,” according to Pearson, and come with a high risk of infection when they do.

The Multnomah County Justice Center covered in tarps and boarded up with plywood.
The Multnomah County Justice Center in Portland, Ore., shown here in June 2022, was the site of frequent protests in 2020. Weeks before Miller was shot, windows were broken and a fire was set to the property that at the time served as a county jail and a police precinct.
Will Matsuda for Long Lead

“A black hole of information”

The absence of comprehensive data leaves an enormous gap in understanding how less-lethal weapons were deployed, making drawing accurate conclusions about the relative dangerousness of KIPs extremely difficult.

Two police officers detain a woman in the middle of the street at night.
Portland Police and Oregon State Patrol officers arrest a protester in Portland, Ore. on August 11, 2020, the city's 75th day of protests against racial injustice and police brutality.
Nathan Howard / Getty
Andre Miller looks down, revealing the scar on his forehead.
The scar on Miller’s forehead shows where he was hit by the tear-gas canister. When he arrived at the hospital, there were metal fragments in his scalp and in the wound, and a CT scan revealed a concussion.
Will Matsuda for Long Lead

A chilling effect

What happened in Portland was exceptional — more than 6,000 use-of-force reports, and even more unreported — but across the country, the availability of less-lethal weapons seemed to encourage police to use them.

A garbage can lid fashioned into a shield in front of some shelves.
A shield Miller used to protect himself from kinetic impact projectiles sits in his garage in Portland, Ore., in June 2022.
Will Matsuda for Long Lead
PART I
Scott Olsen — "I Didn't Realize How Bad It Was."

PART I - Scott Olsen“I DIDN'T REALIZE HOW BAD IT WAS.”

Thumbnail part I

Shot in the head by police firing bean-bag rounds at demonstrators, this veteran awoke from a coma, returned to protesting, and became a symbol to the Occupy movement. Ten years later, he represents a life shattered by the misuse of less-lethal munitions.

READ PART I
 
PART II
Andre Miller — What Is a Rubber Bullet?

PART II - Andre MillerWhat is a rubber bullet?

Andre Miller, who was shot in the head with a tear-gas canister in July 2020, is photographed at his home in Portland, Ore., in June 2022.

Less-lethal munitions come in all shapes and sizes and can leave behind devastating wounds. Victims of KIPs often don’t know what hit them, unless — like this Black Lives Matter protester — there’s shrapnel left behind.

READ PART II
 
PART III
Richard Moore — The Original Rubber Bullet

PART III - Richard MooreThe original rubber bullet

Thumbnail part III

This 10-year-old from Derry, Northern Ireland was shot in the face with a rubber bullet while running home from school, an attack that blinded him for life. In the decades since, the U.K. has turned away from less-lethal munitions while U.S. law enforcement has increasingly embraced them. Why?

READ PART III
 
PART IV
Victoria Snelgrove — When Things Go Wrong

PART IV - Victoria SnelgroveWhen Things Go Wrong

Thumbnail part IV

Everyone knew if the Red Sox ever beat the Yankees, Boston would burst. But what actually happened when they finally won exceeded people's worst fears. How a euphoric riot, a lack of police training, and an untested less-lethal weapon left a woman dead and city leaders searching for answers.

READ PART IV
 
PART V
Minneapolis
PART VI
Austin
TIMELINE
A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE
 
WARNING

This website contains graphic images of violence that some people may find disturbing.