Editor’s note: This post contains a graphic image that some viewers may find disturbing.
A 25-year-old man says he lost a chunk of his lower lip and eight teeth as police cracked down on rowdiness that ensued in the streets of downtown Los Angeles Sunday, following the Lakers’ championship win.
Manny Barrientos, of Van Nuys, is a photographer who was outside Staples Center Sunday night to document the action after the Lakers won their first NBA championship in a decade. The gathering of more than 1,000 fans started peacefully before it turned “confrontational, violent and destructive,” the Los Angeles Police Department said.
At one point, LAPD officers in heavy riot gear showed up and ordered the crowd to disperse. That’s when Barrientos says he kneeled down to take a picture and a large rubber bullet ripped open his mouth — shattering his front four upper teeth and front four lower ones.
“My lip, it was actually on the floor at one point. A whole little chunk of it was on the floor,” he says. “I was like no no no please … I’m trying to like get this out of my head right now.”
He says he thinks he swallowed some of his teeth in the process.
“Luckily they didn’t get me in the eye because they got somebody else in the eye and they took their eye out,” Barrientos said, adding that the man was in the same hospital as him.
Barrientos’ brother Jose Meza says he doesn’t understand why police used that kind of force that night.
Police declared an unlawful assembly after “unruly individuals mixed within the crowd began throwing glass bottles, rocks and other projectiles at officers.” The LAPD said it arrested 76 people on suspicion of vandalism, assault on a police officer and failure to disperse.
Officers injured at least three people in the crowd after firing “less lethal ammunitions,” police said. It was not clear if Barrientos was included in that count. Eight officers were also hurt and received medical treatment.
Meza said he’s reading all sort of comments online.
“I see comments, like, ‘you know he shouldn’t have been out there,’” he said. “Everybody has their own opinion; whatever you want to say that’s going to help you sleep at night.”
Meza set up a GoFundMe page to help with his brother’s medical expenses.
“I’m just thankful I’m here being able to spend my day with my family again,” Barrientos said.