AUSTIN (KXAN) — At least five people were arrested Saturday night during a protest outside Austin Police Department headquarters. One of them, police say, was taken into custody after throwing an electric scooter at an APD horse and later hitting an officer with a skateboard.
That man, 23-year-old James Rodriguez, told KXAN he never threw a scooter at a horse and he only used his skateboard as a barrier between himself and an officer he says lunged at him without warning.
An affidavit shows Rodriguez was charged with interference with police service animals, as well as assault on a peace officer, evading detention on foot and resisting arrest. Police say Rodriguez threw the scooter at the feet of the police horse as it was working to push the crowd away from the front steps of APD headquarters. The affidavit said the scooter caused the officer riding the horse to “temporarily lose control” and that the horse could have hurt officers behind them.
Rodriguez said he moved or dragged a scooter in front of the horse and that it was between 3 and 5 feet away from the horse when he dropped it.
“If the scooter did touch the horse, it’s because the horses were walking forward and stepped on it,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez also disputes officers’ allegation that he assaulted one of them.
Police say when Rodriguez was away from the crowd, officers on bicycles rode over and he first pushed them and then hit one officer’s elbow with a skateboard before running away and falling.
Rodriguez said he was heading out to leave when an officer approached him.
“He stuck his hands straight at me,” Rodriguez said. “Didn’t say a word — get’s real close and then he lunges at me.”
He said he held up his skateboard to keep the officer from grabbing him and ended up pulling it toward himself. He let go and started running, but tripped.
“I was trying to get back up again and then that dude tackles me,” Rodriguez said. “Right after he tackles me, that’s when I started saying ‘I’m not resisting, I’m done.’ I might have even said ‘I’m done.'”
He said he wasn’t trying to resist, but the officer wrestled him, and then other officers jumped on top of him.
“‘Just work with them’ — we can tell ourselves that now, but when its actually happening, you have a different mindset going, and it’s scary. It’s just really scary,” Rodriguez said.
According to the affidavit, “it took at least 3 additional officers that I could see to secure [Rodriguez] in handcuffs” after he “actively resisted” arrest.
“I’m telling you, man, I could not breathe. I could not breathe, honestly. I could maybe get tiny little gasps in,” Rodriguez recalled after officers rolled him on his back. He said he was screaming as they knelt on him.
A Twitter user posted video of the arrest. APD responded to it saying the man did not want to be looked at by Austin-Travis County EMS and was taken to jail that night, which Rodriguez confirmed.
Other protesters, including Jordan Keith Gutierrez, 25, and Samuel Cannon, 20, were accused of walking past barricades at the front steps of police headquarters during the protest.
Police said in an affidavit they warned Gutierrez two times about passing the barricades and decided to arrest him when he did it a third time. The affidavit says he walked into the crowd of protesters and was arrested more than an hour later.
In Cannon’s case, police said they gave “three loud warnings” to the crowd about not coming up the steps on the other side of the barricades or they would be arrested, but that Cannon walked up the steps anyway.
Gabriel Brett Krug, 22, faces a harrassment of public servant charge. He’s accused of spitting on an officer who was trying to keep him from a line of other officers attempting to control the crowd.
Police also accused Cassidy Nordstrom, 25, of grabbing an officer’s baton as he walked into the crowd to help make an arrest. She faces an interference with public duties charge. Nordstrom told officers, according to the affidavit, that she grabbed the baton to “prevent herself from falling to the ground.”
KXAN has reached out to APD to find out how many people were arrested Saturday and the charges they face.
The Travis County Attorney and District Attorney’s offices review all charges like these. A KXAN investigation from early June found reviewing charges could take around 30 days, and some of these cases could be dismissed.