Grand Jury Issues At Least 9 Indictments For Austin Police Officers Accused In 2020 Protests

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According to sources close to the matter, a Travis County grand jury on Thursday issued at least nine indictments for Austin Police Department (APD) officers accused of excessive use of force, a number that is likely to grow as officers and attorneys are notified of other potential indictments.

This number of indictments is also expected to be the highest of any U.S. city following the unrest of George Floyd’s murder.

The indictments come after the grand jury conducted a review of 21 Austin police officers’ actions during the unprecedented protests following Floyd’s murder in Minneapolis and the controversial shooting in Austin of Michael Ramos in April 2020.

The protests drew tens of thousands to Downtown Austin streets last May and led about three dozen people to be taken to the hospital during more than a week of protests. The protestors suffered a range of injuries, including traumatic head wounds and broken bones, that they claim were the result of excessive force by Austin police officers.

According to documents released by the Travis County District Attorney’s Office, the cases considered by the grand jury focus almost exclusively on the use of “less lethal” bean bag rounds.

In the 20 months since the protests, about a dozen plaintiffs have filed lawsuits against the City of Austin and individual officers. Last week, the City settled its first case stemming from the protests, paying out $150,000.

On Thursday, the Austin City Council approved settlements worth $10 million total in two civil lawsuits connected to the protests. A total of $8 million will be given to Justin Howell and $2 million will be paid to Anthony Evans. The $8 million settlement for Howell is the largest settlement amount ever paid for a use-of-force case in Austin’s history.

Prior to Thursday’s announcement, the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas (CLEAT) held a press conference broadcast on Facebook Live in regard to the indictments.

“It’s an absolute disgrace and it sickens me that DA Garza is using enforcement officers as pawns in a political game of chess,” said Austin Police Associate President Ken Casaday. “DA Garza ran on a platform to indict officers and has not missed the opportunity to try and ruin lives, careers and simply fulfill a campaign promise.”

Casaday also called the timing of Thursday’s indictments during early voting for the primary election “mighty suspicious.”