AUSTIN (KXAN) — Five of the 19 police officers indicted on aggravated assault charges stemming from the May 2020 protests have filed a lawsuit against the City of Austin, the Travis County District Attorney’s Office and various social justice groups.
The officers filing suit are Joshua Jackson, Rolan Rast, Todd Gilbertson, Derrick Lehman and Alexander Lomovstev. They’re all on administrative leave pending the outcome of the criminal charges.
The lawsuit states “plaintiffs were ordered to respond and were given less than lethal beanbag rounds, for which they were provided no training and some of which proved to be defective or expired
Adam Muery, the attorney representing the five officers, says they filed now because the statute of limitations for certain legal action stemming from the May 2020 protests expired last night.
“We brought this suit now because it’s only been three months since their indictments and that’s when the fullest extent of damages became known to my clients. Because before that their damages were different,” said Muery.
The Austin Police Department has previously addressed the faulty beanbag rounds.
We reached out to the City of Austin and APD for comment, and also asked specifically about the training the officers filing suit had with the bean bag rounds. The City provided the following statement.
“The City learned of the potential lawsuit through the media. If and when the lawsuit is filed in court, the City will follow its regular process to respond to a civil lawsuit brought against the City.”City of Austin Spokesperson
The lawsuit also alleges numerous times the crowds were “riotous” and the officers followed orders to keep the crowds safe. Causes of action in suit claim, intentional infliction of emotional distress, defamation, malicious prosecution, negligence and negligent hiring/supervision/training and retention, among other things.
The Austin Justice Coalition, which was named in the suit, called it “frivolous.”
“This is nothing but a weak tactic to scare social justice groups and progressively minded Austinites out of exercising our first amendment rights.” Founder and Executive Director of Austin Justice Coalition Chas Moore said. “It won’t work.”
“None of them had training on using these types of weapons while wearing gas masks,” said Muery. “Which is obviously difficult because, in this situation, they made the decision to put the CS gas out onto the interstate. And these officers are now having to use these weapons with these masks that block their field of vision and make it more difficult. Some of these officers were also not specialty officers and were not part of this special response team. So some of these officers had no training on how to use these less-than-lethal rounds.”
Attorney David Va Os, who is representing who he calls a “peaceful” protester in a separate suit says he was surprised to see the alleged lack of training outlined in the lawsuit.
“I’m sure that the lawyers who have filed civil rights lawsuits on behalf of protesters who were wrongfully injured will all be very interested in this judicial admission,” he said. “If they feel like they got inadequate training, I can see how they would sue the City of Austin over that. But to sue all these organizations I think is surprising.”
KXAN reached out to the Mike Ramos Brigade for comment.
Muery said his office officially filed the lawsuit electronically Tuesday night, but it’s still going through the clerks office. That process has taken longer since the pandemic hit and created a backlog with the court system.
The Travis County District Attorney’s Office did not return our request for comment.
The officers involved in this lawsuit have different attorneys for their criminal proceedings.