AUSTIN (KXAN) — Prosecutors have opened an investigation into officers with the Austin Police Department captured on a bystander video where one of the officers is punching a woman, officials said Tuesday. Investigators with the Travis County District Attorney’s Office Civil Rights Unit opened the investigation on Jan. 12 — a day after KXAN investigators interviewed that woman.
The video from Oct. 31 shows two officers dragging Simone Griffith, then 26, off a curb, and one officer repeatedly punching Griffith before placing her in handcuffs. APD later said the department reviewed the incident and concluded the force used in the video complied with the law and its own policies.
Griffith’s attorney, Rebecca Webber, said her client is “profoundly mentally ill” and believes her client was assaulted by the officers seen in the video. Griffith filed a federal lawsuit against the officers and the City of Austin on Christmas Eve alleging excessive force was used by the officers during the incident.
“I not only see a human being having her civil rights violated, but I see a crime. I see an assault. I see a brutal assault,” said Webber. “If that beating complies with their policies, their policies are unconstitutional and need to be changed.”
“I just didn’t understand why I have to be treated like that,” said Griffith in her interview with KXAN.
Griffith, who is experiencing homelessness, was laying outside a pediatrician’s office in an east Austin strip mall at the time, according to court records. The officers seen in the video were called to the strip mall for a trespass call.
One of the officers who responded to the call said Griffith cursed at him and the security guard at the strip mall multiple times, repeatedly refused to leave the property — and scratched his face at some point during the arrest, according to the arrest affidavit.
The officers arrested Griffith for criminal trespass and resisting arrest. The charges were dropped in November by the Travis County Attorney’s Office, court records show. APD has yet to identify the officer seen punching Griffith in the video.
In a message denying KXAN’s request for body camera video and the report detailing the findings of APD’s investigation into the use of force used during the incident, an APD spokesperson said they could not provide the records, because “the incident was being re-reviewed by the Travis County District Attorney’s office.”
APD said the officers did not call its crisis intervention unit, which is trained to handle mental health crises, to the incident involving Griffith. A spokesperson for APD said in a statement on Dec. 28, “It is generally not feasible to delay enforcement action in situations where a property owner requires a trespasser to be removed from the property owner’s private property.”