Lawsuit claims APD officers used excessive force in July 4, 2018 arrest caught on video


AUSTIN (KXAN) — A man who was arrested in 2018 outside a bar on the Fourth of July is suing two Austin police officers and the city, claiming officers used excessive force during his arrest, including punching him in the face eight times.

On July 4, 2018, the lawsuit states Justin Grant was at a bar in downtown Austin and stepped outside to smoke. It says when he tried to go back inside to rejoin his girlfriend, he wasn’t allowed in.

The lawsuit says Grant “briefly argued” with bar security and then walked away. According to a KXAN story from the time, the arrest affidavit said Grant was carrying a knife and appeared to be drunk, and that the original call said he had been threatening staff with the knife. KXAN spoke to bar staff at the time who said security wouldn’t let Grant in with the knife on his belt, and that he at one point grabbed the manager’s hand and shoulder, after which he called 9-1-1.

Grant claims in the lawsuit that the officers did not try to talk to him or “make any other attempts to de-escalate the situation” and did not give him enough time to comply with their orders before they moved in and “violently threw Mr. Grant to the ground.” One officer sat on top of him, the lawsuit states, and also used a stun gun even though “Grant was not resisting.”

The lawsuit says officers told Grant to roll onto his back, which he says he could not do because one officer was on top of him. The lawsuit says Grant was punched at least 8 times in the face.

“This was a circumstance where they had an individual who was armed with a deadly weapon, who they reported was reaching for that weapon, trying to gain control of it, and as the officer was deploying his taser, the subject grabbed a hold of that taser. So, all of that feeds into the officers’ decisions on why they choose to use the level of force that they use,” Chief Brian Manley said at the time.

Video of the encounter went viral shortly after the arrest. At the time, Manley posted on Twitter thanking the person who posted it for “bringing this video to our attention and allowing us time to look into the incident. As is standard protocol, the officers’ chain of command is reviewing all details surrounding this incident.”

The lawsuit says Chief Brian Manley reviewed the video and “ratified the officers’ conduct” and did not discipline, counsel or re-train the officers.

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Justin Grant (Austin Police Department Photo)

According to the original affidavit, Grant faced charges for possession of a controlled substance, terroristic threat and resisting arrest. The lawsuit says the resisting arrest charge has been dropped, and KXAN has reached out to the Travis County District Attorney’s Office for an update on the others.

The lawsuit is asking for compensatory damages, attorneys’ fees, court costs and “judgment at the highest rate allowable under the law.”

KXAN has reached out to the city for comment and it said “we’re aware of the lawsuit and will respond appropriately.”

Use of force has been a prominent topic of conversation over the past month in Austin, in response to protests against police brutality and racial injustice. The city has discussed the calls for “8 Can’t Wait” policy changes related to use of force and passed a number of measures and the Austin Police Department updated its policy related to neck restraints.

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