Fort Wayne officer who fired tear gas at protester who lost eye ID’d

Local News

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – The police officer who fired a tear gas canister during a downtown Fort Wayne protest on May 30, 2020, causing Balin Brake, 22, of Fort Wayne to lose his right eye, has been identified.

On Friday, court documents identified the Fort Wayne Police Officer as Justin Holmes. During the second day of demonstrations in downtown Fort Wayne after the murder of George Floyd, Fort Wayne Police sent tear gas into a crowd of protesters to disperse them, one of the canisters struck Brake in his eye.

From May 30, 2020 – June 2, 2020, Brake stayed in an area hospital after suffering from multiple injuries which required extensive surgery, according to court documents. He ended up losing his right eye and depth perception in his left eye.

Photo courtesy of court documents

Since then Brake has undergone multiple surgeries and received a prosthetic right eye, according to court documents.

The day after the protest, Fort Wayne Police issued a “statement on eye injury.” It claimed Brake was bending over to throw a canister back when a second skipped up and hit him in the eye.

In July 2020, The Washington Post found that video evidence appears to undermine the Fort Wayne Police Department’s account.

With numerous videos from the scene, including video from WANE 15 (see below), The Post found that the second canister did not skip before it struck Brake, and that he had moved away from officers and was standing near a street corner when he was hit. The video also shows that Brake did not bend over and no canister was near him to throw back.

FWPD’s report said there was “no deliberate deployment of gas to any person’s head.”

In October 2020, Brake, with the help of the ACLU of Indiana, filed a lawsuit against the city.

In November 2020, the City of Fort Wayne denied that Brake was peacefully protesting and that Brake was running from a line of officers at the time and that officers shot him.

In March 2021, Brake sought to amend his complaint against the city to add claims of assault and battery as well as intentional infliction of emotional distress on top of the excessive force charge. In an order on April 7, a federal magistrate granted the motion after the city failed to respond.

On the day of the deadline to respond, the City of Fort Wayne asked a federal court for more time to respond to new charges filed against the city as part of an excessive force lawsuit that came out of a racial justice protest last year in downtown.

WANE 15 is working to learn more about the officer.

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