Austin police officers indicted for excessive force in 2020 racial justice protests

1 min read

By Brad Brooks

LUBBOCK, Texas – A grand jury in Austin, Texas, has indicted several police officers for using excessive force during racial justice protests in 2020, authorities said on Thursday.

Prosecutors did not yet say how many police officers were indicted. The president of the Austin Police Association union said that 19 officers were facing charges.

The city of Austin also announced on Thursday a total of $10 million in settlements with two people badly injured by beanbag rounds fired during those protests. The Austin City Council agreed to pay $8 million to Justin Howell, and $2 million to Anthony Evans, both of whom were shot in the head by beanbag rounds during the 2020 protests.

Demonstrations took place in May 2020 in Austin and several other U.S. cities following the murder of George Floyd, a Black man who died in Minneapolis after a police officer pinned his knee against Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes.

Travis County District Attorney José Garza said the indictments would be made public in the coming days as officers were booked and processed through the system. He did not say how many officers were facing indictments.

“Many protesters injured by law enforcement officers during the protests were innocent bystanders,” Garza said during a news conference. “Some will never fully recover.”

Austin Police Chief Joseph Chacon said during a separate news conference on Thursday that officers were working under chaotic circumstances, repeatedly attacked by rocks, bottles of bodily fluids and other objects thrown at them.

The chief said that the department initially expected hundreds of protesters, but crowds grew to several thousand people.

Chacon added that “there were significant portions of times that the crowds were riotous and violent. Property destruction and looting took place over several days at the beginning of the protests.”

Ken Casaday, president of the Austin Police Association union, accused the district attorney of “using working officers as pawns in a political game of chess.”

Casaday told Reuters by phone that 19 officers had been indicted, clarifying the union’s earlier report on its Twitter account that 20 officers were facing charges.

(Reporting by Brad Brooks in Lubbock, Texas; Editing by Donna Bryson and Kenneth Maxwell)