AUSTIN (KXAN) — A Travis County grand jury is scheduled to meet to consider indicting up to 18 Austin police officers for actions during the 2020 racial injustice protests.
An attorney for one of the people hurt in the protests confirmed the grand jury convening to KXAN. Details of pending cases against APD officers and their use of force were released Jan. 31 by the Travis County District Attorney’s office. It said the cases are “expected to be presented to a Travis County grand jury in the early fall of 2021 and continue into the winter of 2022.”
The incidents all stem from May 30 and 31 protests in connection with the deaths of George Floyd and Michael Ramos and allege APD officers shot people with “less lethal” ammunition like bean bags and rubber bullets.
The Office of Police Oversight asked APD and then-chief Brian Manley to review more than 220 complaints against APD officers. APD’s Internal Affairs division investigated 27 of them. Shortly after the protests, Manley said the department would no longer use the “less lethal” rounds as a means of crowd control.
Jeff Edwards, an attorney for Anthony Evans, told KXAN in May 2021, “This is off the charts in terms of how bad it was at the protests.”
Evans was hit in the head with a “less lethal” beanbag round and needed surgery on his jaw.
“This isn’t a situation where a few officers made some mistakes and didn’t do the right thing. Far from it. This is a situation where the highest levels, the people who are supposed to be smart, the people who are supposed to be responsible, authorized the use of deadly force against innocent people,” Edwards said.
APD said 11 of the officers involved were “disciplined” for their actions, but none of them were named and the type of discipline they faced wasn’t given. There are several pending lawsuits against the city and APD and its officers. The city settled one of the lawsuits Feb. 4 after the city council approved a $150,000 settlement for Arianna Chavez, who suffered a concussion, serious head wound and other head trauma after being shot in the head with a “projectile.”
“People were throwing rocks and bottles and frozen water bottles,” said Doug O’Connell who is representing some of the officers. “The officers weren’t just firing bean bag rounds into the crowd haphazardly. They were, as required, targeting specific individuals who posed a threat.”
O’Connell says because officers faced aggression that their crowd control actions were justified. During the protests, some people were injured from the non-lethal, bean bag rounds.
“None of those incidents were the fault of the individual officers,” said O’Connell. “Those officers were issued the shotguns from the department, they were issued the ammunition from the department.”
O’Connell went on to talk about the defective ammo.
“Those bean bag rounds were designed to be less lethal however they were expired,” said O’Connell.
O’Connell says it’s still unclear what evidence will be presented or which witnesses will speak.
KXAN reached out to APD and the DA’s office, but both declined our request to speak on the topic.
KXAN reached out to the attorneys of people who were injured during the protests, some denied our request to speak and we are waiting to hear back from the others.