AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin City Council approved settlements for two people injured by Austin police officers during Black Lives Matter protests in May of 2020. Those settlements together will cost the city $10 million.
The two items on Thursday’s council agenda (57, 58) dealt with approving settlements in two civil lawsuits claiming unnecessary use of force by Austin Police officers.
One of the lawsuits is from Anthony Evans, who said he was shot in the head with a beanbag round while unarmed and while he was trying to leave the protest on May 31. Injuries from the round required him to have surgery to repair his broken jaw. He will receive $2 million, according to the city.
The other lawsuit is from Justin Howell, a Texas State University student who was put in critical condition after being hit by a beanbag round. His brother at the time wrote an editorial saying Howell suffered a skull fracture and brain injury, and recovery was expected to be lengthy. The city said Howell will receive $8 million.
Both of those lawsuits, as a product of the settlement, will be dropped.
“These settlements remind us of a real difficult and painful moment in our city,” Austin Mayor Steve Adler said. “It’s important that we address these two injuries and it’s also important that we make policy changes going forward as a result of these incidents.”
The following statement is from APD Chief Joseph Chacon:
“I understand the Council’s decision to settle these two cases now and our hearts go out to these two individuals who received serious injuries during the May 2020 protests. When APD responded that day, our goal was to protect people gathering to exercise their right to protest as we have safely done for many years. We planned for protests with crowds that would be similar to past protests. In hindsight, we were not prepared for the heightened frustration felt by so many community members, nor the size and scope of the crowds. As tensions escalated, APD instructed our officers to use tools that we thought would help manage the crowd for everyone’s safety. However, we did not anticipate the injuries that occurred from the use of the less-lethal rounds. We now prohibit the use of less-lethal ammunition for crowd control.”
A city spokesperson also released the following statement:
“We are settling two lawsuits filed by individuals who suffered significant injuries during the May 2020 protests. We have reviewed the totality of the circumstances surrounding the protests, and we believe it is in the best interest of these plaintiffs and the City of Austin to resolve these cases now. We have other claims and lawsuits that have been filed as a result of injuries during the protests, and we will review each of those matters individually. The significant dollar amounts in today’s settlements stem from these particular plaintiffs’ need for ongoing and long-term care. Following the protests, APD committed that it will no longer use bean bag ammunition for crowd control. The City continues to reform public safety policies and procedures in the interests of our community.”