Advocates For Abortion Access Say They Were Hit By Pellets During July 4 Redding Protest

Three women spoke to Shasta Scout about being hit by pellets during a recent Redding human rights protest, including one woman who was live-streaming the protest when she was hit. We share their stories, what you should know about safety at protests, and how and when to report incidents to the police.

A number of Shasta County women say they were hit by some kind of pellets fired from a passing car during a recent Redding Independence Day protest for freedom and human rights. The event, which drew more than 100 participants, occurred along Cypress Avenue in front of City Hall, adjacent to the Redding Police Department’s headquarters.

It was organized by seventeen-year old Kamryn Mabee and publicized by the Shasta Abortion Coalition (SAC), a newly formed grassroots feminist collective of women and their allies working to promote abortion rights in the north state.

The protest’s proximity to RPD’s headquarters apparently did not deter the alleged drive-by non-lethal shooting events, which three women confirmed in separate statements to Shasta Scout over the last few days.

Ilena Short, one of the women who says she was hit by the pellets remembers standing across from City Hall on Cypress Avenue, streaming video of the protest event on TikTok live, when she felt something strike her body.

“We were chanting ‘my body, my choice,’ Short said, “the light was green, and a car drove by really fast . . . I felt something hit me . . . and then I heard a couple people standing more towards the intersection say they got hit by something.”

Like the other women who spoke with Shasta Scout, Short said it took her a moment to realize what had happened because it occurred so quickly. She said she ended her TikTok live and went back to look at the video she had taken. She was able to capture several screenshots from that video, including one of a gray-and-orange gun sticking out the window of a dark-colored sedan.

Screenshot from TikTok live taken during a July 4 Redding protest event. Courtesy, Ilena Short.

Although it’s unclear what type of weapon is seen in Short’s video, or what type of ammunition might have been used, the gun appears similar to those which have been utilized in the Orbeez Challenge. That challenge, which became popular in the spring of 2022, involves shooting Orbeez gels from a gel-ball gun or air soft gun. The manufacturer has said the gels are not intended to be shot at humans, and police in other communities have said shooting Orbeez balls at humans could result in serious criminal charges due to the possibility of serious injury to eyes or other sensitive areas.

A toy gel-ball gun obtained as evidence by Florida law enforcement after an Amazon delivery driver was shot by Orbeez gel balls.
Image source: Volusia County Sheriff’s Office Twitter page

Short said she saw the vehicle she had identified in her video drive by three more times over the next twenty-five minutes or so, and noted that there were two men in the vehicle who appeared to be in their mid-twenties to early thirties. She said she did not report the event to the police because she was unsure what they would do about it, but she did share photos and post a warning to others on the Shasta Abortion Coalition’s Facebook page. After seeing those photos on the page, another group member, Heather Wylie, submitted a report to the Redding Police Department and shared the RPD case number for the incident on the group’s Facebook page, encouraging others to report. 

That prompted another protestor, Rachel Phelps, to share her experience at the protest with the police later in the week, she told Shasta Scout Friday. Phelps said she arrived at Monday’s protest early, around 6:45 pm, and was standing on Cypress Avenue across from City Hall with her husband, best friend, and niece when she suddenly felt something hit her.

“I just remember standing there and all of a sudden, I thought somebody had thrown a rock really hard at me, and I thought, ‘what was that?!” Phelps said. 

“My husband said ‘that sounded like a bb gun,’ and we looked to see if we could find the pellet or the bb gun,” Phelps continued, “but we weren’t able to find anything and we heard my niece say  “I just got hit!” and I walked over there and her and another girl had just gotten hit (too).”

Phelps said her niece was hit on the shoulder and the girl close to her was hit on her side. Whatever hit her and others, she said, also tore through the cardboard sign she was holding.

A welt on Short’s skin, allegedly from being hit by a pellet during the protest. Photo courtesy, Ilena Short.

A third protestor, Jennifer Stalker, says she was standing on the opposite side of the street from Short and Phelps, directly in front of City Hall, when she was hit by something at about 7:40 pm, about forty minutes after the protest started. She confirmed the time for Shasta Scout by checking text messages from that evening. The last text she received, right before being hit, was from her mom who wrote, “Be careful protesting with all those shooters out everywhere now,” Stalker said, explaining what happened next. 

“I was standing there and all of a sudden I saw a dark hunter green vehicle, I want to say, a young guy, and what looked like some sort of a nerf gun, bright color, and then I heard the automatic sound, like a super fast sound. I kind of looked at myself because I thought it was a paint gun . . .I said ‘oh my gosh I just got hit!’ and my daughter said ‘I did too!”

“It all happened so fast,” Stalker explained, describing seeing someone with dark hair in the passenger side of the vehicle, squatted down, with his arm on the open window and the gun pointed out, partially obscuring his face. 

“Thirty minutes later I heard the familiar sound and they were back on the other side (of Cypress) again, shooting,” Stalker said. After the event she looked around on the ground for what might have hit her and talked to those around her, finding out that the pellets had hit every other person in her area, including her friend. 

The incident left Stalker “in a little bit of shock.” She says she understands that abortion access is a controversial issue locally and she expected to get flipped off or yelled at while protesting but did not expect to be shot at. 

“I respect everybody else’s rights (to disagree),” she explained, “As long as it’s peaceful and not harmful. That’s what America’s based on, having our own views and beliefs.” Stalker said she reported the incident to the police online several days after it happened. 

Short, who filmed the incident, agreed saying she attends abortion-access protests with an awareness of danger. “I knew the first time that I came out that that’s a risk that I’m taking. We live in a very red part of California and not everybody agrees with what we’re out here for; it’s a very heated topic,” Short explained, saying that she had not yet reported the incident to police because she was unsure if what happened was a crime, but intended to do so now that others had.

Phelps said she was scared by Monday’s events but wouldn’t let it stop her from continued protesting, explaining that she is committed to advocating for the rights of her daughter and granddaughters, particularly because her daughter is a military spouse who may find herself deployed to a state where she no longer would have abortion access. 

The Shasta Abortion Coalition released a statement about the alleged incidents on Friday which reads in part:

“We come to you with heavy hearts after hearing the unfortunate events that happened on the 4th of July protest. This event was held by members in the community who wanted to express their First Amendment Rights, not by Shasta Abortion Coalition. However, we want to use our platforms to help end the harassment and violence from anti-abortion extremists. Most importantly we care about the safety of those who attend events like this. We are encouraging individuals who were affected, witnessed, or have any information to report directly to the Redding Police Department. When reporting please state that the case number is 22R042334.”

Phelps and Wylie both told Shasta Scout that they’d been informed by RPD when placing their reports that police would have an increased presence at the next protest event.

At Saturday’s protest, about forty-five people stood holding signs on both sides of the street. Most said they had heard about Monday’s events and had some concerns about safety but were not deterred from protesting. There was no evidence of a police presence at the event. RPD has not responded to two requests for comment from Shasta Scout.

Protestors along Cypress Avenue during a July 9 protest said they felt mostly safe but some said they wished there had been a police presence.

Retired teacher Jeannette Logue, who attended the event with her husband, daughter and son-in-law said she’ll keep showing up.

“I think the old folks might not be as worried (about the risk),” Logue said, “because we are . . . Vietnam War protesters. We’ve been protesting against things forever and there are always threats, but you just have to keep your fingers crossed.”

She said she still wished there had been police presence at the protest. “It would show that law enforcement in this town supports our rights,” Logue said, “It’s kind of discouraging to me that they’re not here.” 

How To Report An Incident to the Police in Redding:

Even if you’re not sure what happened was a crime, or don’t have many details, you can still report an incident to the police. Other victims or witnesses may have information you don’t and law enforcement can utilize public cameras and other information to help with their investigation. If you were harmed, you should report what happened to law enforcement even if others have already reported it, to ensure law enforcement know what happened to you.

Report an incident to the police as soon as you safely can. If you are in immediate danger, call 911. If you are safe you can fill out an online incident report or call the Redding Police Department at (530) 225-4200 Ext. 1.

If You Experience Harm At A Protest:

The American Civil Liberties Union provides comprehensive information on your rights during public protest and what to do if they’re violated, including what to do if you’re harmed at a protest:

  • When you can, take notes on everything you can remember about the incident
  • Share contact information with anyone else who was harmed or witnessed the harm
  • Take photographs of any injuries
  • File a report.

Annelise Pierce is Shasta Scout’s Editor and a Community Reporter covering government accountability, civic engagement, and local religious and political movements. You can contact her at [email protected] 

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