Scott Olsen returned unscathed from two tours in Iraq only to be critically wounded during a violent confrontation between police and Occupy Oakland protesters Tuesday night.
Ali Winston, a reporter for KALW Radio's The Informant, posted a video on YouTube that shows people carrying Olsen, who is bleeding from the head. The people tell Winston that Olsen was shot. The incident occurred near 14th and Broadway at around 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Another video taken by KTVU shows Olsen lying on the ground, surrounded by protesters, when an officer lobs a canister into the group, releasing smoke.
As of 8 p.m. Wednesday, Olsen, 24, remained in critical condition at Highland Hospital in Oakland. Friends and family members said he had a two-inch skull fracture. A hospital spokesperson said he would be moved to the intensive care unit as soon as a bed could be found.
Earlier in the day, a handful of friends, many of whom are also veterans of the Iraq war, stood vigil outside the emergency room door. They said they had been informed by nurses that he was still unconscious.
Aaron Hinde, an Iraq war veteran who, like Olsen, is a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War, said Olsen was brought to the hospital by “two good Samaritans” around 8 p.m. Tuesday evening and lost consciousness on the way to the hospital.
“I think it's terrible for him to go two tours in Iraq and exercise his rights that he fought so hard to defend and get a serious injury like this,” said his roommate, Keith Shannon, who served alongside Olsen in the Marines in Iraq.
At an afternoon press conference with Oakland Mayor Jean Quan on Wednesday, interim police Chief Howard Jordan said the Oakland Police Department had opened a "level one investigation" into Olsen's injury, involving OPD's internal affairs, major crimes and homicide departments; the Alameda County District Attorney's office; and the federal monitor that oversees the Oakland police department.
Jordan said police used tear gas and bean bag bullets to disperse protesters, but did not fire rubber bullets. He said the department was investigating what munitions were used by the other law enforcement agencies that assisted OPD in its dispersal of Occupy Oakland protesters.
At a second press conference Wednesday evening, Jordan said he did not know which law enforcement agency was responsible for Olsen's injury.
Siri Margerin, a local peace activist, said two Oakland police detectives in body armor visited Highland Hospital around midnight Tuesday night and interviewed Olsen’s friends.
Two Alameda County Sheriffs Deputies also interviewed them Wednesday morning, she said.
Shannon, who served in Iraq alongside Olsen between 2006 and 2007, described his friend as a “quiet kind of person, someone who was always smiling.”
Shannon said Olsen moved out to California after his discharge from the Marine Corps because he wanted to work in the tech industry. Olsen worked at the San Francisco tech firm OPSWAT, Shannon said.
Olsen's mother, Sandy Olsen of Onalaska, Wis., said her son joined the military out of high school in 2005 because he “wanted to help the people over there,” but soured on the war during his tours of duty.
When he came home, she said, her son joined Iraq Veterans Against the War, a group which has joined many of the Occupy Wall Street protests around the country.
His roommate, Shannon, said Olsen joined the protests “because he thought the banks pretty much run free and unregulated and are never held accountable for their actions.”
“It is about the people taking back the government as well as placing restrictions on the corporations,” he said.
Shannon said Olsen, who lives in a two-bedroom apartment in Daly City, had taken part in numerous Occupy protests in San Francisco but joined the Occupy Oakland movement for the first time Tuesday evening.