An Austin, Texas Grand Jury is expected to issue indictments against Austin police officers for actions during 2020 racial justice protests.
During the protests that occurred in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death by Minnesota police officers, several protestors were injured by bean bag rounds fired by Austin PD officers.
An Austin CBS network affiliate reported a source indicated 19 police officers were expected to be indicted after the DA’s press conference where he declined to identify oficers involved. An indictment must remain confidential, under Texas law, until an officer has been arrested.
“We know the majority of victims were injured by a deadly weapon capable of causing serious bodily injury and death. If these facts are verified through future legal proceedings, they have serious repercussions for the Austin and Travis County community,” Travis County District Attorney Jose Garza said. “We also believe the overwhelming majority of victims in the incidents that were investigated suffered significant and lasting injuries.”
“Those injuries include significant and serious injuries to the head, face, and body,” he continued. “Some will never fully recover.”
Law enforcement officials expressed displeasure after hearing the District Attorney’s announcement.
Austin Police Chief Joseph Chacon said he was disappointed to hear Garza addressing the anticipated indictments, adding he was unaware of any officer conduct that rose to the criminal level related to the protests. He emphasized officers deserve the presumption of innocence and the right to a speedy trial afforded any other defendant. He further noted the use of less-lethal rounds is now prohibited by his department.
An Austin American-Statesman report said the president of the police officers union said the number of indicted officers was 19.
Charley Wilkison, the leader of the labor union representing Texas law enforcement officers, believes the indicted officers are scapegoats. Wilkinson opined city leaders in charge of decision making – like Mayor Steve Adler and Austin City Council – should be held accountable, instead.
“Everything the officers touched out there was about brass,” the union leader said. “Someone else made the decision to deploy them. Someone else made the decision of what kind of ammo – the non-lethal ammo – that they had no control over [the manufacturer, the storage]. The officers are handed this and told to fire.” He noted that while officers are being brought before a grand jury, the people who make the decisions are not.
“It’s a grave, grave injustice.”
Chief Chacon said the size and scope of the protesting crowds were underestimated.
“As a department, we asked these officers to work under the most chaotic or circumstances in May of 2020 and to make split second decisions to protect all participants,” Chacon said.
Property was destroyed during several days of looting and rocks, frozen water bottles, commercial-grade fireworks among other objects, were thrown at officers and into crowds in an attempt to seriously injure, Chacon added.
He is not aware of any conduct that — given the circumstances officers were working under –would rise to the level of a criminal violation by these officers, he concluded.
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