"All I heard was a boom. I got hit," protester Brandon Saenz said

By Tim McGovern
June 04, 2020 07:12 PM
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Brandon Saenz
WFAA

A protester in Dallas is claiming that while at a protest against police brutality, he lost an eye after he was shot in the face by a sponge round, which is considered non-lethal, by police.

Brandon Saenz says he was protesting police brutality when all of a sudden, all he "heard was boom. I was hit," he told CBSFDW.

“I put my hands up, put my hand on my eye, and then I took off running,” he added over his interaction with the police.

Saenz, 26, says he did nothing to provoke the police into shooting him with the sponge round, but as a result of the incident and his subsequent injury, he lost his left eye, his attorneys told the outlet.

"The Dallas Police Department (DPD) has been made aware of two use-of-force possibly involving members of the police force," the Dallas Police Department said in a statement shared with PEOPLE.

"According to intel, both occurred on Sunday May 31 on Main Street" at different times, the DPD statement continued, before adding, "As a result, two individuals were seriously injured, requiring hospitalization and surgery."

"We are currently waiting for the victims to recover in order to garner all the facts surrounding these incidents," it added.

The Dallas Police Department also asked members of the community with any "information, photo and video" of the incidents to contact their Internal Affairs Division at 214-671-3986 or DPDIAD@dallascityhall.com.

"We take these matters very seriously," the statement continued. "Rest assured, there will be a full investigation and we will continue to keep the public informed on the status of the investigations."

George Floyd

Saenz' injury comes amid continued, nationwide protests against police brutality and systemic racism in the wake of the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died after a white police officer pinned him to the ground with a knee on his neck as Floyd said repeatedly he couldn't breathe and pleaded for the officer to stop.

The officer in question, Derek Chauvin, was previously charged with third-degree murder and third-degree manslaughter charges but this was upgraded to second-degree murder on Wednesday.

Formal criminal charges have also been filed in Minnesota against the three other policemen ⁠— Thomas Lane, 37, Tou Thao, 34, and J. Alexander Kueng, 26 ⁠— who were present at the time of George Floyd's May 25 death, according to a warrant reviewed by PEOPLE.

Linda Turado
Linda Tirado

In Minneapolis, photojournalist Linda Tirado was covering the protests when she was shot in the eye with a rubber bullet.

“I was honestly just standing there, trying to decide what shot I was going to take, and it was just a really intense pain in my face," Tirado told PEOPLE. “And all of a sudden, I felt blood everywhere. I closed my eyes and started wandering in the direction that I thought was away from cops, yelling, ‘I'm press. I'm press.’ And some of the protestors picked me up, put me in a car and took me to the hospital.”

As soon as Tirado arrived at the hospital, she was taken to surgery in hopes of saving her eye.

“They said that my eyeball actually nearly exploded. They said it was nearly separated in two, and so they did the surgery trying to put it back together, but there's no chance of restoring vision,” she says. “I might be able to see lights and shadows, but the surgery that they did was more cosmetic than anything.”