AUSTIN, Texas - Austin police officers indicted on aggravated assault charges following May 2020 racial justice protests face up to life in prison if convicted, an attorney representing eight of them says.
Nineteen officers have been indicted on charges connected to the protests. Attorney Douglas O’Connell and his partner, Ken Ervin, represent eight of them.
"Each of these eight officers are charged with two counts of aggravated assault by a public servant. These are first degree felonies," O’Connell told reporters in a press conference Monday.
Ervin says the firm has not seen the indictments. He expects to view them Tuesday. Meaning the attorneys are unable to confirm what type of aggravated assault charges the eight officers they represent are facing.
The cases stem from officers firing less lethal munitions at protestors. Ervin believes most, if not all charges, are likely "aggravated assault with a deadly weapon."
"This is normally a second-degree felony, but if committed in the course of their duties as law enforcement, it becomes a first-degree felony punishable by 5 to 99 years or life in prison," Ervin explained.
O’Connell said the officers could also face an up to $10,000 fine.
With capias warrants issued for each of the 19 Austin Police Department officers, O’Connell and Ervin confirmed their clients reported to the Travis County Jail.
"They were fingerprinted, photographed and released on a $1 cash deposit bond. There are no additional bond conditions," said O’Connell.
The Travis County District Attorney’s Office makes $1 bonds available to those who would be eligible for personal bonds prior to Senate Bill 6 — a recent bill that reformed the state’s bail system.
Monday, Brad Heilman, an attorney representing Detective Nicholas Gebhart, told FOX 7 Austin his client was also booked and released from the Travis County Jail on a $5,000 bond.
"I sat through the SIU interview, I sat through the entire administrative process and saw all the evidence and I’m shocked and disappointed that an indictment was handed down in this case. And I definitely look forward to a jury seeing all of the evidence," said Heilman.
Gebhart is accused of shooting 16-year-old Brad Levi Ayala in the head. Video shows the teen standing on a hill observing the protest when he was shot with a less-lethal round.
His brother, Edwin Sanchez, told Austin City Council in 2020 his brother had been at work at Jersey Mike's Subs when stopped on the hill to observe the days events. The Austin Police Association has maintained that Ayala was not Gebhart’s intended target.
"All officers faced exceptionally challenging circumstances during the protests," said Ervin. "Our officers were struck with frozen water bottles, water bottles filled with urine, glass bottles, rocks, exploding fireworks and one Molotov cocktail — which was attempted to be thrown, but was caught before it was lit and thrown."
When asked about innocent bystanders being shot, O’Connell replied, "There very well may be righteous civil law, civil personal injury cases. That's not what's going on here. These are criminal indictments where these officers face up to 99 years or life in prison."
O’Connell and Ervin say their clients each have a court date set. However, they believe trials are more than a year away. The duo represent three sergeants and two corporals, five supervisors in total.
Attorneys provided the following descriptions of the officers they represent:
- Detective Nicholas Gebhart: For violent crime interdiction unit - FBI task force, current member of swat gold team, currently on training cadre of SRT
- Sergeant Josh Blake: Blake has served Austin for over 20 years and is currently assigned to the SWAT team. Master peace officer’s license. Previously certified as a mental health officer and standardized field sobriety instructor.
- Sergeant Stan Vick: Vick has served for 16 years with APD and is currently assigned to internal affairs. Master peace officer’s license.
- Sergeant Brett Tableriou: Tableriou has served Austin for 19 years and assigned to sector investigations. Master peace officer’s license.
- Corporal Ed Boudreau: Boudreau has been with APD for almost 15 years. He is assigned as a patrol corporal. Master peace officer’s license. Certified as an advanced instructor, firearms instructor and driving instructor.
- Corporal Christopher Irwin: Irwin is a 9-year veteran of APD. He currently serves as a patrol corporal. Master peace officer’s license. Certified mental health officer, field training officer.
- Senior police officer Justin Berry: Berry has served for more than 14 years. He’s currently assigned to the special events and emergency management division. Master peace officer’s license.
- Senior police officer Eric Heim: Heim is a 7-year officer who’s currently assigned as a background investigator. Intermediate peace officer license. Certified mental health officer, field training officer.
- Senior police officer Jeff Teng: Teng has served the Austin community for five years and is assigned to patrol. Intermediate peace officer license. Certified mental health officer, certified bilingual officer.