OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — The Iraq War veteran injured in clashes between police and anti-Wall Street protesters felt so strongly about economic inequality that he wanted to do something to change it, his roommate said Thursday.

Scott Olsen, 24, joined the protests as he worked his day job as a network engineer and left his apartment each night to sleep alongside protesters in San Francisco and Oakland, Calif., Keith Shannon said.

Olsen apparently suffered a fractured skull Tuesday during the clashes.

It’s not known exactly what type of object struck Olsen or who might have thrown it. The group Iraq Veterans Against the War said officers were responsible for his injury.

Oakland police Chief Howard Jordan said officials will investigate whether officers used excessive force.

Olsen has become a rallying cry, with demonstrators in New York City marching on Wednesday night in support of their counterparts in Oakland and a movement website declaring: “We are all Scott Olsen.”

Another round of vigils was being organized Thursday.

Olsen, who is originally from Onalaska, Wis., served two tours of duty in Iraq, makes a good living at a San Francisco software company and had a hillside apartment in a suburb that overlooks San Francisco Bay.

And yet, Shannon said, Olsen felt strongly about the wealth disparity between the rich and everyone else.

“He felt you shouldn’t wait until something is affecting you to get out and do something about it,” said Shannon, who served in Iraq with Olsen.

Shannon said his roommate felt the anti-Wall Street movement had a chance to create real change.

So each night, he would go out to the tent camps that have sprung up over the past month in cities as the movement spread to protest economic inequality and what they see as corporate greed.

Shannon said Olsen usually called with his whereabouts.

On Tuesday night, Olsen had planned to be in San Francisco, but changed course after his veteran’s group decided to go to Oakland to support the protesters there after police cleared an encampment outside city hall.

“I think it was a last minute thing,” he said. “He didn’t think about it.”

Joshua Shepherd, 27, a Navy veteran who was standing nearby when Olsen got struck, said he didn’t know what hit him. “It was like a war zone,” he said.

Then there was a scramble and he couldn’t clearly see the rush of folks who went to Olsen’s aid.

A video posted on YouTube showed Olsen being carried by other protesters through the tear gas, his face bloodied. People shout at him: “What’s your name? What’s your name?” Olsen, however, just stares back.

Shepherd said it’s a cruel irony that Olsen is fighting for his life in the country that he fought to protect.

“He was over there protecting the rights and freedoms of America and he comes home, exercises his “freedoms” and, it’s here, where he’s nearly fatally wounded,” Shepherd said.

A hospital spokesman said Olsen was upgraded to fair condition and moved into an intensive care unit on Thursday. His uncle said his parents were flying in from Wisconsin to be with him.

“His mother, this is obviously a heartbreaker to her,” George Nygaard, a Marine veteran, said from Wisconsin. “I don’t think she understands why he was doing this.”

People at OPSWAT, the San Francisco security software company where Olsen works, were devastated after learning of his injuries. They described him as a humble, quiet guy who worked hard over long hours.

“He’s been a big piece of what we do here and our growth strategy, so obviously it’s pretty devastating for us that he’s in the shape he’s in,” said Jeff Garon, the company’s director of marketing.

Olsen had been helping to develop security applications for U.S. defense agencies, building on expertise gained while on active duty in Iraq, Garon said.

Olsen was awarded seven medals while serving in the U.S. Marine Corps, which he left as a lance corporal in November 2009 after serving for four years.

He went on two tours in Iraq, one in 2006-2007 and another in 2008, where he worked as a data network specialist. He was awarded seven medals, including the Navy-Marine Corps Achievement Medal, according to the Marine Corps.

Olsen moved to the Bay Area in July, and quickly found friends in the veterans against the war group.

The lanky man with a dry sense of humor and sarcastic wit did not show a lot of interest in politics as a teen — he has two tattoos for the group “Insane Clown Posse” on his upper arms, Shannon said.

His tours of duty in Iraq made him more serious, Shannon said.

“He wasn’t active in politics before he went in the military, but he became active once he was out … the experience in the military definitely shaped him,” Shannon said.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Comments (15)
  1. 82nd says:

    Its great that we have free speech and the right to protest PEACEFULLY.The protesters were warned to disperse and they didnt, the injury could have come from either side.Some of the occupiers were acting like rabid animals its no wonder more were not hurt. I feel sorry for him but he made a choice, before I am attacked for not standing up for him because he is a vet and the cause, I also am a Veteran and have seen my fair share of pain and heart ache. I hope the best for him!

    1. Realist says:

      “the injury could have come from either side.”

      BS and you know it.

      1. tom says:

        how do you know, were you there, you probably caused his injuries. stupid liberals

      2. Deb says:

        “It’s not known exactly what type of object struck Olsen or who might have thrown it. The group Iraq Veterans Against the War said officers were responsible for his injury.”

        Since he was facing the cops and the cops were shooting tear gas canisters ,which aren’t exactly small, and you see the cop who shot him pull back behind the police line, I’d say it’s safe to say it was the cops. But of course no one will ever convince 82nd that it was the cops. People like you and I know the truth, people like 82nd could have been standing shoulder to shoulder with Scott, see the canister shot out of the gun and hit Scott in the head all in slow motion and still wouldn’t have believed it! You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make ’em drink!

  2. G Dog says:

    I believe the conservatives would call Mr. Olsen an unwashed, unemployed, hippie anarchist.

    I would call him an American hero.

  3. JMJ says:

    “The group Iraq Veterans Against the War said officers were responsible for his injury.” Really with the way people were acting I am not surprised someone got hurt and this is a group i don’t think i would believe anyway. The title says it all……if you don’t believe in WAR and protecting your country dont join the Army.

    1. GOP = chumps says:

      You, JMJ, are about the dumbest person (except for kevin and just sayin’) to ever post here.

    2. Me says:

      Reading isn’t your thing, is it? This honorable American veteran and patriot was a Marine.

  4. Jack Noff says:

    Cops always bust heads, that’s all they know.

  5. Al says:

    Sad all the way around. We need to do something about overpaid CEO’s but deciding you are going to intrude on the rest of society probably isn’t the right way either. Especially when we do have much to be thankful for in this country.

  6. Jake says:

    Saw the item on the NBC news. I commend this veteran for his service, but he put himself in harm’s way VOLUNTARILY. Hard to determine who injured him so badly, but I wouldn’t dismiss ANY possibility. Also saw recent photos of him, looks like he went ‘hippie’ in a serious way, so it’s hard to know what motivated him to do this, at least from my point of view. This isn’t the 60’s or 70’s people, many of us do NOT want to see that replay again. Like it or not, the police have a job to do, and I, as a law-abiding citizen, expect them to do it.

  7. Jake says:

    Just because you are a war vet, it doesn’t give you the right to break the law or expect to come out on top if you choose to butt heads with the police. I would hope that a war vet, who was involved with peace and security, could understand the duties of law enforcement officers, and respect them as well, especially in your own country. To try to label the average cop as a bloodthirsty, unfeeling, corrupt thug is unfair. Many cops themselves are veterans, as well.

    1. Karl says:

      Sounds better than ‘Communist injured’. When the agenda of the author is to further the cause he uses things like this stir up emotion. The fact that he is a vet is absolutely irrelavent.

    2. Realist says:

      Do you even know what happened? Have you seen the video?

  8. copchop says:

    It’s time to use force back. Murder is called for.

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