AUSTIN (KXAN) — Two Austin Police Department officers have been indicted in the wake of May 2020 protests in downtown Austin, Travis County District Attorney José Garza said Friday.
Chance Bretches and James Morgan were charged with felony offenses of aggravated assault with serious bodily injury by a public servant and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon by a public servant.
The charges against Bretches stem from a case in which a woman allegedly working as a street medic was injured in the protest. The DA’s office says Meredith Drake was shot with a “deadly weapon” by Bretches and lost part of her finger as a result. Drake previously told KXAN she was hit by a bean bag round.
The victim in the other case, Jose Herrera, was allegedly shot with a deadly weapon by Morgan and suffered “serious bodily injury” as a result, the DA’s office said.
“If these allegations are true, they have serious repercussions for the Austin and Travis County community,” Garza said in a statement. “Our community is safer when the community trusts law enforcement, believes that law enforcement follows the law, and protects those who live here. There cannot be trust if there is no accountability when law enforcement breaks the law.”
Both Drake and Herrera have filed lawsuits against the City of Austin, claiming excessive force was used by Austin police officers.
The new indictments mean 21 APD officers now face charges related to the 2020 protests. Nineteen of those were announced in February. At the time, Garza said his office’s investigation into the incidents revealed “disturbing” facts and that he believed many injured protesters were “innocent bystanders.”
Austin PD Chief Joseph Chacon responded immediately, saying he was “extremely disappointed” in the announcement of the indictments.
“While I respect the grand jury process, I am disappointed to hear the DA’s press conference statements regarding anticipated indictments of APD officers related to the 2020 protests,” Chacon said during a press conference on Feb. 17.
Bretches currently faces an additional aggravated assault by a public servant charge related to an incident in March 2019, in which he and another officer attempted to stop what they believed was a narcotics deal. The other officer was also indicted in the same case, but charges against him were dropped in July 2021.
The new cases will be prosecuted by the DA’s office Civil Rights Unit.
KXAN has reached out to attorneys for Bretches and Morgan. We will update this story when we hear back.