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Photo by Michael Minasi/KUT. Demonstrators protest against police violence outside Austin Police Department headquarters on May 31, 2020.

DA says grand jury indicting ‘multiple’ Austin police officers for injuries during 2020 protests

Friday, February 18, 2022 by Andrew Weber, KUT

A Travis County grand jury is expected to indict “multiple” Austin police officers accused of injuring people during the 2020 protests following the killing of George Floyd.

In announcing the indictments, Travis County District Attorney José Garza said “multiple indictments will be forthcoming in the days ahead,” but did not specify how many. The Austin American-Statesman reports 19 police officers have been indicted.

“An indictment handed down by a grand jury is a preliminary decision that probable cause exists to believe a crime was committed,” Garza said during a news conference Thursday. “It is not a statement as to the guilt or innocence of any person indicted. That determination will not be made until much later in the process.”

A Travis County special grand jury had been tasked with deciding whether there was probable cause to find law enforcement officers acted criminally during the 2020 protests. Garza said Thursday the jury had concluded its work and that indictments were expected, though they couldn’t be made public until the officers were booked in the county jail.

Garza described the facts discovered during the investigation as “disturbing.”

First, we believe many protesters injured by law enforcement officers during the protest were innocent bystanders,” he said. “We also believe that 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. Some will never fully recover.”

Austin Police Chief Joseph Chacon said he was “extremely disappointed” in the DA’s announcement. He defended the officers, saying they were working “under the most chaotic of circumstances” and had to make “split-second decisions to protect all participants” in the protests.

“I am not aware of any conduct that, given the circumstances that the officers were working under, would rise to the level of a criminal violation by these officers,” he said during a news conference. We are at the beginning of the criminal justice process. As we move forward, these officers must be afforded all of the same protections of any defendant, including the presumption of innocence and the right to a speedy trial.”

News of the indictments came just hours after the city agreed to pay $10 million to settle the cases of two men shot by police with beanbag rounds during racial justice protests in May 2020.

This story was produced as part of the Austin Monitor’s reporting partnership with KUT.

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