FORT WAYNE Ind. (WPTA21) - The man who lost his eye from a tear gas canister while protesting, Balin Brake, shares his story after nearly three weeks into his recovery.
"Before this happened, I would just hang out with my friends, play video games, live a normal 21-year-old life." Brake said.
Nearly three weeks ago, on the second day of protests, Brake says he decided to take a stand against police brutality. That day would change his life forever.
"I want you to look me in my eye and say you still stand by the police and what they did.”Balin Brake
"I saw the way they were treating the citizens, and I didn't like it," Brake said. “They started firing tear gas, one hit my right foot, and I began to run away and I turned around to see what was happening behind me, and that's when it hit me in my right eye."
When police deployed tear gas on Saturday, May 30th, a tear gas canister hit him in the face and he lost his eye.
"Really my memory is vague of the actual canister,” Brake said. “I just remember turning around and I remember it hitting me, and me flying back. And that's what plays over and over again in my head, I don't have a full description."
Isiah Gray, a stranger to Balin, was there that day.
"I saw them shoot a canister directly up and hit him in the eye," Gray says he saw police aim towards Brake then found him on the ground coughing from tear gas and hunched over in pain.
"He was on the ground and they were still gassing, so I scooped him up and carried him a little bit,” Gray said. “I picked him up to run try to carry him to safety."
Gray carried Brake down Clinton Street, passed the Hoppy Gnome, to Citizen’s Square where he was asking people and police for help. He says it took a long time for paramedics to reach Brake, and officers helped bandage his eye.
"I’ve known Balin Brake for two weeks now and I've never known a Balin Brake with two eyes," Gray said. “He’s been able to keep his strength, and resolve, and stand up to be able to say ‘I'm not backing out because this happened’ and that's stronger than me.”
“I’m no longer asking, I'm demanding. You need to come out here and face the people. I want you to look me in my eye and say that you're sorry."Balin Brake
Brake says after surgery doctors were forced to remove his eye, and only two days after his recovery, he was protesting again.
He says he wants to use this incident to raise awareness, and he has a message for the mayor.
“This is for Mayor Tom Henry himself,” Brake said. “I’m no longer asking, I'm demanding. You need to come out here and face the people. I want you to look me in my eye and say that you're sorry. I want you to look me in my eye and say you still stand by the police and what they did.”
Fort Wayne Police say Brake was picking up the canister, they released the following statement:
According to our officers on the ground, the protester was still in the area after commands to leave the area were given. Gas was deployed in the area and the protester bent over to pick up the canister to throw it back at officers as many others were trying to do. When he bent over another canister was deployed in the area and that canister skipped and hit the protester in the eye.Fort Wayne Police Department statement
Brake faces no charges, and he says he will not stop protesting until a change is made.