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Photo by Gabriel C. Pérez/KUT. Austin police used "less lethal" rounds to control crowds during racial justice protests in 2020.

Austin faces another round of lawsuits related to police use of ‘less lethal’ rounds

Wednesday, April 6, 2022 by Andrew Weber, KUT

Three more demonstrators are suing the Austin Police Department for injuries sustained from so-called less-lethal ammunition fired by police over a weekend of racial justice protests in 2020.

More than a dozen protesters have sued the department for use of the ammunition, which include either foam rounds fired from a 40 mm launcher or bags filled with lead pellets fired from shotguns.

The rounds injured dozens of demonstrators protesting the police killings of George Floyd and Mike Ramos. A Travis County grand jury indicted 19 police officers on aggravated assault charges for using the ammunition.

The three new lawsuits were filed in federal court Monday.

  • Alyssa Sanders alleges Officer Eric Heim shot her in the head with a 40 mm round as she tried to flee police firing less-lethal rounds near Guadalupe and Cesar Chavez streets on May 31, 2020. The complaint says Sanders was unarmed and suffered “severe and devastating injuries.” Heim faces a criminal charge for the incident.
  • Cesar Fuentez alleges an unidentified officer shot him with a less-lethal shotgun round as he fled Interstate 35 on May 30, 2020. Fuentez’s complaint says he was unarmed and that the lead-pellet bag became embedded in his arm, requiring surgery. The complaint says both APD and the city have “failed to identify” the officer who shot him.
  • Taylor Ellis alleges he was shot by officers Todd Gilbertson and Michael Crossen with less-lethal rounds near I-35 and APD headquarters on May 31, 2020. Ellis’ complaint says he was hit in the left hip and left shoulder. Gilbertson faces a criminal charge in a similar incident, but Crossen has not previously been identified in investigations related to the use of force at the protests.

APD has since said it will not use less-lethal ammunition to control crowds. So far, the city has paid out $13 million in civil settlements to four demonstrators.

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

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