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Jo Clifton is the Politics Editor for the Austin Monitor.
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Friday, January 15, 2021 by Jo Clifton
District attorney details civil rights cases
Travis County District Attorney José Garza released information Thursday related to every case against local police officers pending in the office’s Civil Rights Unit. The information involves cases such as the deaths of Javier Ambler in March 2019 and Michael Ramos in April 2020 that have received considerable publicity as well as investigations related to use-of-force allegations arising from protests following the police killing of George Floyd last May.
Overall, the cases involve the alleged police shootings of nine men – Aquantis Griffin, Isaiah Hutchinson, Giorgio Taylor, Carlos Dodero, Mauris DeSilva, Tyler Grist, Fred Babcock, Enrique Quiroz, and Alexander Gonzalez – between 2019 and the first week of 2021. Other cases involve complaints concerning injuries allegedly suffered at the hands of police officers, including 11 complainants who say they were injured during protests following the deaths of Floyd and Ramos. Finally, one complainant alleges that an officer sexually assaulted her after responding to a service call at her address.
“Already this year, there have been two officer-involved shootings,” Garza said in a press statement. “Our community has been clear that when law enforcement officers use deadly force, prosecutors must investigate the case quickly and with transparency, to ensure that no one is above the law.” A major plank in Garza’s platform was holding police accountable for any crimes they have committed.
Former District Attorney Margaret Moore decided last fall that she would leave officer-involved shooting cases to Garza. Because of that and due to Covid-19 restrictions, Travis County is not currently conducting any criminal jury trials. So cases against two former police officers and one former investigator with the Austin Fire Department are awaiting trial.
Garza said he intends to present evidence related to the deaths of Ambler and Ramos to the Travis County Grand Jury before its term expires on March 30. He also intends to present evidence related to the alleged sexual assault before the end of March.
Additionally, Garza plans to present evidence related to officer-involved shooting cases that date back to March 2018. After the expiration of the current grand jury, the office will be impaneling additional grand juries, with the expectation that the DA’s Office will begin to present other cases by June.
One officer, Lando Hall, is charged with the felony offense of misuse of official information. Hall was indicted on Jan. 4 and the case is pending in the 403rd judicial District Court. He is accused of using his position as a police officer to gather and disclose private information regarding the driver’s licenses, vehicle registration and criminal history of three women involved in divorce and/or child custody cases.
Photo made available through a Creative Commons license.
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