AUSTIN, Texas - 19 Austin police officers have been indicted following protests in May 2020, a source close to the case tells FOX 7 Austin.
Thursday afternoon Travis County District Attorney Jose Garza announced the special grand jury reviewing the cases had "concluded its work."
Austin Police Chief Joseph Chacon spoke about the indictments during a press conference at APD headquarters just an hour after DA Garza announced the indictments.
"While I respect the grand jury process, I am disappointed to hear the District Attorney anticipates indictments of APD Officers related to the 2020 protests," Chacon said in the press conference. "As a department, we asked these officers to work under the most chaotic of circumstances in May 2020, and to make split second decisions to protect all participants. I am not aware of any conduct that, given the circumstances the officers were working under, would rise to the level of a criminal violation by these officers. "
According to the Associated Press, the officers have been indicted on charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon for their actions during 2020 protests over racial injustice that spread nationwide after the killing of George Floyd. It ranks among the most indictments on a single police department in the U.S. over tactics used by officers during the widespread protests.
Twenty-one officers had been under grand jury review as of last Thursday, according to law enforcement defense attorney Doug O’Connell.
Last Wednesday, the Travis County District Attorney’s Office verified that 18 officers were under review for their actions at racial justice protests in May 2020. The officers fired less-lethal munitions at protestors, injuring several - some critically.
These indictments were filed as the Austin City Council voted to settle two lawsuits connected to the protests for $10 million. Texas State University political science student Justin Howell will be receiving $8 million and Anthony Evans will receive $2 million. The city says the amounts stem from their need for ongoing and long-term care.
Howell was shot in the head with a bean bag round by an Austin police officer at a protest on May 31, 2020. He had been filming a protest at APD headquarters on his cellphone. Former Austin Police Chief Brian Manley said at the time that HALO camera footage shows a man standing near Howell throwing a water bottle, then a backpack at officers.
While attending a Black Lives Matter demonstration on May 31, 2020, an APD officer shot Evans in the head with a beanbag shotgun round while Evans was attempting to leave the demonstration. Evans was seriously wounded, and required surgery to repair his broken jaw.