NEW ORLEANS — The New Orleans Police Department held a "defense technology" demonstration Tuesday morning, the day after they acknowledged shooting rubber projectiles into a crowd of protesters last Wednesday.
The demonstration, held at the NOPD's training facility in New Orleans East, featured the live firing of rubber balls by the department's Special Operations Division (SOD) personnel.
Officials also explained the type of tear gas used on the crowd.
The display was meant to be an act of transparency following a violent encounter between the NOPD and protesters, in which police shot rubber balls and tear gas canisters into a crowd of hundreds as they attempted to cross the Crescent City Connection in protest of police brutality and the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
NOPD Police Chief Shaun Ferguson originally told the public that, while CS tear gas was used to disperse the crowd in response to negotiations breaking down, no rubber projectiles were used.
This conflicted with reports from protesters on the bridge, and physical evidence from the scene proved that at least two rubber balls had been fired by police.
Ferguson soon apologized and on Monday said an investigation had begun, with punishments ranging from reprimands to suspensions or termination are possible.
Watch the full demonstration below
"I acknowledge and want to make a formal apology to our citizens. I received information that we deployed tear gas and tear gas only," he said. "That was the information I had at the time."
Ferguson said that some SOD members of the did use the rubber balls, that Ferguson said have the goal of dispersing a crowd. He said the use of those balls was not approved by the commanding officers on the scene - Captain Bryan Lampard of SWAT and Captain Lejon Roberts.
At the demonstration, SOD Sgt. Todd Morell said protesters stole shields, helmets, radios and other tactical equipment from police.
He also said the distinction between rubber bullets and rubber balls is worth mentioning.
A rubber bullet looks almost exactly like a metal bullet and is fired out of a traditional handgun, shotgun or rifle. Some are actually just metal bullets encased in rubber, he said.
The rubber balls, he said, are about the size of a paintball and are fired in a "stinger round," which scatters 18 of the projectiles. The range is 15-50 feet. He said from his experience, getting hit with one hurts "significantly less" than a paintball.
This, however, conflicts with an image of what is allegedly a rubber ball wound from the CCC -- an open wound encircled by bruising on the inside of a man’s thigh.
Still, Morell said the NOPD has never carried rubber bullets in his 30 years with the department, and he had to go to another department to get one for the demonstration.
Ferguson also said SOD officers get tear gassed in training and stun-gunned so they "can see what it feels like."
The CCC incident has been the only physical encounter between police and protesters so far in New Orleans through more than a week of protests highlighting the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minnesota police and the deaths of other black men and women in encounters with police over the years.