The Iraq veteran seriously wounded Tuesday night at “Occupy Oakland” sustained minor brain damage and has been rendered unable to speak, doctors said Friday, adding that he will likely be able to make a full recovery in time.
Scott Olsen, 24, was said to be otherwise lucid and able to communicate with his family by writing notes, but his ability to spell is also damaged, according to sources who spoke with The Guardian. He is, however, able to understand what’s being communicated to him.
Keith Shannon, Olsen’s roommate who served with him in Iraq, explained that “He cannot talk right now, and that is because the fracture is right on the speech center of his brain,” the paper added. “However, they are expecting he will get that back.”
Olsen is believed to have been struck in the forehead by a police projectile, and many speculate it was either a tear gas canister or a beanbag full of lead fired from a shotgun. Both can be lethal at close range, although many police departments use them as “non-lethal” weapons. Video from the scene seems to show him being struck by a tear gas canister fired from just a few feet away, but the image is not clear.
The blow was so severe that doctors were forced to place Olsen in a medically-induced coma to help fight swelling on his brain.
The two-tour Iraq veteran has since become a flashpoint for the 99 Percent movement, who’ve seemingly been targeted for police harassment in most major cities.
In response to Tuesday’s events, the general assembly at “Occupy Oakland” has called for a city-wide general strike on Nov. 2, aimed at shutting down city services for one day to protest police violence.
Oakland Mayor Jean Quon, who authorized the eviction, has since distanced herself from the police chief, saying on Friday “I only asked the chief to do one thing: to do it when it was the safest for both the police and the demonstrators.” Current TV’s Keith Olbermann has called on her to go further than pass the blame: he wants Mayor Quon to fire the police chief or resign. There’s no indication that she plans to do either.
Since the violence she’s also claimed to support the 99 Percent movement and withdrawn much of the police presence near the park where protesters had been camping.
Olsen may still face brain surgery, but doctors haven’t determined whether that’s necessary just yet.