AUSTIN (KXAN) — Another protester has filed suit against the City of Austin, claiming an officer used unnecessary force against her during a protest in August 2020.
The lawsuit claims two different Austin Police officers shoved a woman named Eli Winkleman after she approached an officer while recording on her cellphone.
“There’s the officer knocking the phone out of her hand,” said Kaplan Law attorney Maff Caponi, addressing video of the protest. “She follows, asks for a badge number… [he] turns around and shoves her. Another officer grabs her and throws her to the ground right there.”
It’s difficult to see what exactly happens in the video, because other protesters are standing in the way.
“I think the really important thing for Eli is some kind of acknowledgement that this isn’t how the City of Austin expects its officers to behave,” said Caponi.
Neither the city nor the police department will comment on pending litigation, but the city has previously reached settlements with multiple other protesters, totaling more than $10 million.
While the incident at the heart of the lawsuit happened in August 2020, these protests as a whole started in May 2020.
“By the time August rolls around, we’re a solid three months into this,” said Austin Police Association Vice President Thomas Villareal. “The women and men that are working are working 16+ hour days, sometimes getting called into work six to seven days a week.”
He also said some protests that started off peaceful escalated into riots.
“I don’t want anybody to feel like we’re labeling everyone that participated in a protest or anyone that’s exercising their right to organize in the same light. You had some bad actors,” Villarreal said. “Throwing rocks, throwing bottles, throwing frozen water bottles, throwing paint, shooting fireworks at officers.”
Caponi said the firm filed the suit, which seeks monetary compensation, now, because they had reached the deadline for the statute of limitations.
“We had been talking with the City for close to six months at this point to see if there was some other way we could resolve this without having to file the suit,” sad Caponi.
The City and police department released the following statement in response to the suit.
We are aware the case has been filed. We will follow our regular procedure for responses to litigation brought against the city.City of Austin
Travis County grand juries have indicted 19 police officers on assault charges stemming from their actions during the May 2020 protests.
Five of those 19 have sued the City and various social justice groups. Among other facets, they claimed they did not receive proper training on the less-than-lethal bean bag rounds they were instructed to use during the protests.