DENVER (KDVR) – There was no time to react late Friday afternoon when Megan Matthews looked into the sky and saw a 40mm foam projectile – also known as a sponge grenade – headed straight toward her face.
“It all went black immediately,” said the 22-year-old protester, who insists her actions that afternoon, before the sun went down, were peaceful.
“I could already feel tons of blood just coming out of my face, filling my whole mask,” she said, explaining how a friend carried her to a grassy area near the State Capitol, where she was bandaged by a doctor and later loaded into an ambulance.
Matthews said Friday was the second day she had been protesting in downtown Denver. She had just finished watching a series of speeches and had plans to assist other protesters who were caught in clouds of pepper spray and tear gas. She was also handing out snacks and water to fellow protesters.
“My group was hearing people being tear gassed, and we made a decision as a group to go left (toward the more chaotic scene) because we were carrying full spray bottles full of milk, milk of magnesia, first aid and stuff like that,” said Matthews. “We just felt really called to help people that were being unfairly gassed, as many of our friends had been the night before as well.”
Matthews said she observed police firing pepper balls and some protesters hurling water bottles and apples at the officers.
“When our group saw that that was happening in that area, we actually moved away from that area, we disassociated from anything that was being violent because we weren’t a part of that. We were just trying to catch the stragglers that were coming up and couldn’t breathe, couldn’t see, call paramedics if we needed,” she said.
Matthews said she was in a state of shock as she stood watching crowds start to disperse.
“I kind of immobilized, not sure what to do, and then, that’s when I look up and I just see something coming straight at my face,” she said.
“She had blood everywhere. Poor thing. She was very calm,” said a physician who helped bandage Matthews’ head after her friends carried her to a safer area.
The physician declined to share her name but said she was in the crowd to assist other protesters with potential injuries. She said it was difficult to breathe as she was tending to Matthews because police continued to launch irritants in their direction.
“I just felt so horrible for her. I tried to start wrapping her head up…she had a huge laceration.”
Matthews’ friend, Zac Layman, said he thought the strike on his friend’s face was intentional.
“Being witness to it, Megan was standing straight up and down, there was about seven feet of space on either side of her and nobody around her at that point,” said Layton. “There was kind of no one around for it to be something that he shot at a crowd.”
The FOX31 Problem Solvers reached out to the Denver Police Department, but it did not respond by our deadline.
“It would be nice if somebody sat down and said, ‘Hey, sorry I shot you in the face,’ but I think what would be more impactful for me would be if the actions of the police chiefs and the police officers reflected a true diligence to wanting to make a change to how not only people of color are treated but just how anyone in our system is treated,” Matthews said. “I really just want to see reform. That’s why I was out there in the first place, and that would mean so much more to me than any apology.”