Denver Health ophthalmologist says eye injuries of protesters were ‘startling’ and ‘unexpected’

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DENVER (KDVR) — Russell Strong is learning how to handle daily tasks with only one eye.

The 35-year-old was injured by what he believes was some sort of projectile launched by police in the downtown protests several weeks ago.

“Police started firing into the crowd and I turned to run and the next thing I knew something had blown up in my face. That knocked me to the ground and I was just very disoriented,” said Strong.

Strong was taken to Denver Health where he learned his eye would have to be removed.

“I have no depth of perception now. Something simple like trying to pour a cup of coffee, I can’t hit the coffee cup,” said Strong.

Dr. Prem Subramanian was the ophthalmologist on call at Denver Health during the height of the downtown protests. They saw six patients with eye-related injuries over the course of about 96 hours.

“Two of them in particular sustained very severe injuries to the eye such that the eyeball itself ruptured. One of them with a ruptured eye had severe injuries to the eye socket as well,” said Subramanian.

Subramanian says the extent of the injuries was startling and unexpected.

“These were the kind of injuries I had seen in soldiers injured in blasts in Iraq and Afghanistan. These were very severe injuries,” said Subramanian.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology has launched a campaign aimed at trying to prevent future injuries of this type.

Subramanian says the focus is to educate lawmakers and law enforcement on the risk associated with less lethal weapons such as projectiles.

“Law enforcement has to be able to enforce laws. But we have to find ways to do that without causing people to lose vision from the use of these kinds of weapons,” said Subramanian.

The recently passed police accountability bill in Colorado prohibits law enforcement from discharging “kinetic impact projectiles” in a manner that targets the head, pelvis or back while responding to protests. The bill also prohibits discharging projectiles indiscriminately into a crowd.

“It consoles me a little bit to see action being taken,” said Strong. “That’s what I wanted, that’s why I was protesting in the first place. I wanted some kind of accountability.”

Strong’s attorney says they have requested multiple investigations into the matter from the Internal Affairs Bureau and Independent Monitor.

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