AUSTIN (KXAN) — The attorneys representing eight of the 19 Austin Police Department officers who were indicted related to use-of-force incidents during the 2020 protests released a statement Friday night, saying the beanbag rounds officers used for crowd control didn’t work as intended.
Travis County District Attorney José Garza announced the indictments against the 19 officers last week tied to racial injustice protests spurred by the deaths of George Floyd and Mike Ramos. All were charged with two counts of aggravated assault by a public servant. According to the indictments, the officers harmed a total of 10 people during the chaos of the protests.
Garza said last week the protesters suffered “significant and serious injuries to the head, face and body,” and some may never recover. Many injuries were caused by beanbag rounds.
Attorneys Jason S. English and Laurie Drymalla represent Officers Kyu An, Joseph Cast, Kyle Felton, Jeremy Fisher, Todd Gilbertson, Derrick Lehman, Alexander Lomostev and John Siegel. They said the beanbag rounds have become “the focal point in these cases.”
“These less lethal weapons are explicitly designed and employed to incapacitate individuals while minimizing injury. However, we understand that the beanbag rounds issued to our clients were unknowingly defective. We have heard that they were expired and that the rounds did not perform in the manner of their intended use. Simply – these rounds are not designed to cause serious bodily injury or death. However, we have seen injuries that are significantly different than expected and the accuracy of the rounds significantly affected,” part of their statement read Friday.
English and Drymalla continued, saying while the unintended injuries protesters suffered are tragic, they still believe the actions of their clients, the officers, were reasonable and justified.
After the protests, APD stopped using less lethal rounds in crowd situations, according to Chief Joseph Chacon.
Earlier this week, KXAN heard from another group of eight officers involved in the cases, represented by attorneys Doug O’Connell and Ken Ervin. They said the officers were working under extreme conditions and had things thrown at them during the protests, including rocks, glass bottles, frozen water bottles and water bottles full of urine.
O’Connell also maintains the beanbag rounds used during the protests were defective and “rather than coming out of the shotgun as a sock filled with bb’s it came out as a slug.”
This new statement from English and Drymalla makes 16 of 19 officers we’ve heard from so far.