From the Department of, “About F%$#ing Time”
19 Austin, TX police officers have been indicted for aggravated assault for their excessive responses to George Floyd protests.
It should be noted that over $10 million in settlements have already been made, so it’s clear that the police, as is their wont, were brutally over-reacting to the protests, because they want to preserve their privilege.
Unfortunately for them, and fortunately for the citizens of Austin, Texas, there was a new DA elected on a platform that explicitly stated that police brutality would be prosecuted, and not it has been:
Austin police officers were following orders from leadership and using commonly accepted tactics when they used force against protesters, according to defense attorneys representing eight of 19 indicted over the 2020 protests over racial injustice.
“The decision to impact these people or beanbags was ordered or otherwise authorized by the highest levels of APD command,” defense attorney Doug O’Connell said at a Monday news conference. “These aren’t a few rogue officers doing what they wanted to do.”
“I was just following orders,” is not a great defense. It did not work at Nuremberg.
A Travis County jury has charged each of the eight officers with two counts of aggravated assault, which is a first degree felony when committed by law enforcement, O’Connell confirmed. The charge is punishable by five to 99 years in prison, or a fine of up to $10,000.
If the DA can get them to flip on higher-ups, that would be a good thing. I have no doubt that their behavior was (at least) tacitly approved by higher-ups.
The eight officers represented — Josh Blake, Stan Vick, Brett Tableriou, Ed Boudreau, Christopher Irwin, Eric Heim, Jeff Teng, and Texas House candidate Justin Berry are among the officers accused — were placed on paid administrative duty unless the indictments are resolved at trial, O’Connell said.
Surprise! Berry is running as a Republican, so the indictment will probably get him votes in the primary.
The charges stem from crowd control measures used during the May 2020 protests in Austin. Thousands protested for over a week after the police killings of George Floyd in Minneapolis and Michael Ramos in Austin. The officer involved in Floyd’s death, Derek Chauvin, was found guilty of murder. The APD officer who fired on Ramos, Christopher Taylor, has been charged with murder and is awaiting trial.
Central to the indictments is the use of bean bag rounds, or small cloth baggies filled with #9 lead shot and fired from a 12-gauge shotgun. The bean bag rounds, which police consider a “less-lethal” weapon, wounded several demonstrators.
The city of Austin has faced at least 14 lawsuits because of serious injuries involving the use of this particular weapon against protesters, three of which have resulted in settlements.
On Thursday, the city announced an $8 million settlement with Justin Howell — the highest amount ever awarded in an excessive force case involving an Austin police officer. Howell, then a 20-year-old Texas State University student, had a fractured skull and brain damage as a result of the bean bag rounds, which Austin police have said were aimed at a nearby man that threw a water bottle.
The city also approved on Thursday a $2 million settlement with Anthony Evans, who police fired at as he walked away from the demonstration. Evans’ jaw was fractured. And in a separate settlement earlier this month, 21-year-old Arianna Chavez received $150,000 from the city.
Even if he had not made a promise to hold police accountable for misconduct, DA José Garza is doing the right thing.
Police need to be held to the highest standards.