The grandmother who spent several days in intensive care after she was shot in the forehead with a "less lethal" projectile by La Mesa police during a protest spoke out for the first time on Wednesday.
"First and foremost, I need to thank God for still being here," 59-year-old Leslie Furcron said before she also expressed gratitude to the staff of Sharp Grossmont Hospital and Sharp Memorial Hospital.
Furcron, who approached the podium with the support of a walker, was released from the hospital on Monday after she recovered from the injury to her head. She was standing near La Mesa Police Department headquarters on May 30 when violence followed the protest.
While some people threw rocks and water bottles at police officers, looters took advantage of the unrest by targeting nearby businesses and some establishments were set ablaze. In response, police officers deployed tear gas, flashbacks, and projectiles to attendants. La Mesa police released a timeline of events that took place during the turmoil.
Furcron shared that she is a new great-grandmother, a San Diego City College student pursuing a degree as a social worker, and a La Mesa resident. Her attorney, Dante Pride, said she's lost vision and sight in her left eye.
La Mesa Protest
Unrest followed the demonstration
"I'm also a woman in recovery, a productive member of society, I'm a law-abiding citizen," she said. "And I never came out here at night for this to be a part of my story."
Pride said the woman was holding up her cellphone to record the protest and heading home when an officer opened fire. She was among those who were hit by a bean bag round and the force of the round knocked her to the ground. A graphic video of her injury circulated social media.
“At the time that she was shot, she had just called the police ‘murderers,’" Pride said at the press conference on Wednesday. "She said, ‘You guys are murderers’ and then, subsequent to that, in the video, you can hear the shot and then you can see the impact.”
The 59-year-old was rushed to Sharp Grossmont Hospital then was taken via aircraft to Sharp Memorial Hospital. Due to the swelling, she was placed in a medically-induced coma for three to four days. She then underwent surgery on her forehead, doctors attempted to close her wound. Following the surgery, she was taken to the intensive care unit for further treatment until she was released.
“There’s no reason why Ms. Furcron should shoulder the burden of these injuries of no fault of her own by herself," Pride said.
Pride also said that when La Mesa Police Department Chief Walt Vasquez was asked to release the name of the officer who deployed the round, he refused and said he would conduct his own investigation.
Already a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request was filed to find out who the officer is. Should La Mesa police refuse to the request, an injunction will be filed, according to Pride.
Furcron said she is feeling week, and Pride said his client is hurt.
"She is hurt. She is sad," he said. "She has her own history of dealing with the police, as most African-Americans in this country have. Me, myself, included. She has her own issues in dealing with that and now she’s hurt."
La Mesa Police Department Chief Walt Vasquez issued a statement regarding Furcron's health and encounter. He said the following:
“I am sincerely thankful that Ms. Furcron has been released from the hospital and is able to now heal at home with her family. 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.
"The men and women of the La Mesa Police Department work tirelessly to provide quality and professional police services for all members of our community. Our hope is that we will all come together to heal the wounds, nurture a culture of open communication, and make the City of La Mesa a better and safer place to live.”