AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Austin City Council has approved almost $5 million in settlements with four people who filed separate civil rights lawsuits against the city. Three of the settlements involved people injured in the May 2020 protests in downtown Austin.
A fifth settlement was also approved for a woman involved in a crash with an Austin police vehicle. The five settlements total $4,899,900.
Two of the settlements were approved unanimously Thursday morning. Councilmember Mackenzie Kelly voted no on the three protest-related settlements.
KXAN has reached out to the City of Austin for comment. This story will be updated when we hear back.
“As with all claims and lawsuits the City receives, we handle them respectfully and fairly,” a spokesperson for the City told KXAN in a statement. “Each case is different, and we review the facts and circumstances in each one and work towards the most appropriate resolution for all the individuals involved.”
Landon Nobles officer-involved shooting
Councilmembers approved a settlement of $3.3 million with the family of Landon Nobles, who was shot and killed by APD officers in 2017. The family filed a civil lawsuit against APD and two officers, Lt. Richard Egal and Sgt. Maxwell Johnson, in May 2018.
In the lawsuit, the family claimed new evidence showed Nobles did not turn and fire a gun at officers first, as APD has previously stated. The attorneys for the family collected statements from witnesses, who said they did not see Nobles pull out a gun.
In December 2021, a jury determined the officers used excessive force in the shooting and recommended a total of $67 million in damages.
At the time, a City of Austin spokesperson said the City and the officers involved were “genuinely surprised” by the verdict. The federal judge in the case, Mark Lane, called the amount “wildly excessive” and in a September 2022 order, reduced the total to $8 million.
As part of Thursday’s settlement with the City, the total was reduced further to $3.3 million. Council approved of the settlement unanimously.
Councilmembers approved settlements totaling $1.5 million with three people injured during the May 2020 racial injustice protests in downtown Austin.
Nicole Underwood was awarded $675,000, Steven Arawn was awarded $450,000, and Jason Gallagher was awarded $375,000.
In his lawsuit, Arawn said he was working as a street medic during the protests when officers started shooting beanbag rounds into a crowd of protesters on a hill near Interstate 35.
Arawn said he was kneeling down to help a woman who had been hit in the stomach when an officer fired and hit his hand. The lawsuit said that months later, he had still not regained full function in his hand.
Underwood said in her lawsuit that she was on the same hill near I-35 when she was hit by a beanbag projectile.
Gallagher filed a lawsuit against the City, claiming he was pepper sprayed in the face and pushed in the back with a police baton, causing him to stumble and injure his knee.
Mackenzie Kelly voted no on the three protest-related settlements. All other council members approved.
Nineteen officers were indicted in February 2022 for their actions during the protests. Travis County District Attorney José Garza said the facts discovered through his office’s investigation of the incidents were “disturbing” and they believe many protesters injured by law enforcement during the protests were “innocent bystanders.”
Five of the indicted officers later filed a lawsuit against the City, DA’s office and various social justice groups. The lawsuit said the officers “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.”
The city previously settled with several other people related to the 2020 protests:
- Feb. 17, 2022: City approves $10 million in settlements for injured protesters
- March 3, 2022: Austin City Council approves $2.95 million protest injury settlement
- May 6, 2022: City settles another lawsuit related to May 2020 protests, this one for 850K
- May 19, 2022: Austin settles 2 lawsuits from May 2020 protests, totaling nearly $1 million
Councilmembers also approved a $99,900 settlement with Claudia Ford.
She had been injured in a February 2018 crash involving an APD vehicle.