21-Year-Old’s Arm ‘Blown Up’ By Concussion Grenade Allegedly Thrown By Police In North Dakota Pipeline Protests [Video]

This article contains extremely graphic visuals of a severe injury, and may be upsetting to some readers.

Sophia Wilansky, a North Dakota Access pipeline protester may lose her arm after catching the full brunt of a concussion grenade, the Guardian is reporting. In the no-holds barred offensive by police, two men went into cardiac arrest and had to be revived at the scene.

The 21-year-old from New York was one of the several hundred protesters injured during a standoff with police, Sunday where a contentious pipeline is planned to cross under the Missouri river. Members of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe have attempted to stop construction of the pipeline by establishing a “spiritual camp,” on the banks of the river since April.


The tribe had expressed concern that the project would violate sacred burial grounds and endanger their water supply. The activists who go by the name “water protectors” have faced a heavily armed police force that has resorted to tasers, rubber bullets, pepper sprays, tear-gas, and other “less than lethal” methods to stop them from interfering with the project. Since the protests began, more than 400 protesters have been arrested.

The 21-year-old was giving bottles of water to protectors who were holding the line against law enforcement when she was severely injured by an alleged concussion grenade.

She was air-lifted to County Medical center in Minneapolis where she went through extensive surgery. Reports revealed that her arm has been badly damaged and that it would be amputated. Graphic photographs of her wounds with broken bones protruding out of her arm are currently circulating on social media.

Her father, Wayne Wilansky said without an amputation the best case scenario for his daughter was “a 10-20 percent functionality” of her arm. Wilansky, who was with his daughter in Minneapolis as she underwent eight hours of surgery, said that his daughter had been hit by a concussion grenade. According to him, the grenade thrown by a police officer destroyed the arteries, muscle, median nerve, and bone in his daughter’s left arm.

“A grenade exploded right as it hit Sophia in the left forearm taking most of the under surface of her left arm with it. Both her radial and ulnar artery were completely destroyed. Her radius was shattered and a large piece of it is missing. Her medial nerve is missing a large section as well. All of the muscle and soft tissue between her elbow and wrist were blown away. The police did not do this by accident—it was an intentional act of throwing it directly at her.”

Militarized police officers launched an offensive Sunday evening after more than 100 water protectors attempted to remove two burnt vehicles that had barricaded the roadway since a clash October 27. The activists had said that the obstruction was preventing emergency services from gaining access to the reservation and other areas.

As the water protectors tried to remove the blockade, police had allegedly started shooting rubber bullets, tear gas, and other projectiles. The law enforcement officers had also used water cannons on protesters despite the freezing conditions. Over 300 of the protesters were injured with 26 rushed to the hospital. According to the Standing Rock Medic and Healer Council, many of the injured had hypothermia.

Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier told media outlets that the protesters had turned violent, setting fires on the bridge and wounding a police officer, justifying the need to resort to strong-arm tactics. A spokesperson for the department refuted claims that concussion grenades had been thrown by police officers. The spokesperson argued that protesters instead had rigged small propane tanks to explode.

The Standing Rock Medic and Healer Council has kicked back at the claims in a statement, citing eyewitnesses and footage which showed police hurling concussion grenades at protesters. They revealed that the grenade fragments removed from Wilansky’s arm would be used as evidence.

Sophia Wilansky has received an avalanche of support online with a GoFundMe page established to pick up her medical bills. As of the time of this report, the crowdfunding campaign had raised $281,629 within 24 hours.


Wayne Wilansky has released a statement after the first surgery on Sophia’s arm.

“Sophia will have surgery again as bit by bit they try to rebuild a somewhat functioning arm and hand. The first surgery took a vein from her leg which they have implanted in her arm to take the place of the missing arteries. She will need multiple surgeries to try to gain some functional use of the arm and hand. She will be, every day for the foreseeable future, fearful of losing her arm and hand…there are no words to describe the pain of watching my daughter cry…I died a thousand deaths today and will continue for quite some time.”


[Featured Image by Morton County Sheriff’s Department]

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