AUSTIN, Texas - It’s been almost two years since the 2020 social justice protests and confrontations with Austin police.
At the end of the month, the statute of limitations to file assault charges expires. As the clock wind downs, with individuals linked to the investigation, the Grand Jury review of the actions by police was expanded to include Chief Joseph Chacon and former Chief Brian Manley.
The move doesn't surprise Charley Wilkison who leads CLEAT, the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas.
"This is a mop up, a political mop up operation, so he doesn't look so bad to his superiors, political handlers that hired him to do this job," said Wilkison.
The expanded review may also include an additional 10 police officers. Nineteen Austin police officers have already been indicted for allegedly using excessive force during the protests, which at times turned violent with rocks and urine filled bottles thrown at police. Bean bags fired from shotguns were used on several occasions.
It has been suggested the munitions fired at protesters were faulty, and senior command staff was aware of the problem.
In February, CLEAT accused District Attorney Jose Garza of using the 19 officers as political scapegoats for leadership failures. On Monday, Wilkison said the lives of the officers targeted by Garza have been destroyed because the original launch of the investigation was flawed.
- 19 APD officers indicted following May 2020 protests
- APD officers indicted face up to life in prison, attorney says
- 21 APD officers now under Grand Jury review after injuring protesters in 2020
"People were injured, we know that for a fact, we know how their injuries occurred, but we don’t know who directed them to make these decisions, and so that would have been a better starting point for this District Attorney and Grand Jury. So I don’t know in the end if the criminal charge can be made over faulty expired weapon, munitions, who knows if that can happen, but it was exactly the opposite of what should have occurred. It should have begun with a real investigation," said Wilkison.
When the indictments were first announced in February, Chief Chacon issued a statement: "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," said Chief Chacon, during a Feb. 17 news conference.
Austin Mayor Steve Adler, at the time, said he respects the grand jury process and the process has to move forward. Requests for comments regarding the expansion of the Grand Jury review were sent to Chacon, Manley, Mayor Adler and the district attorney.
A statement was sent Monday by a city spokesperson:
"The City hasn’t received any information on an investigation into the role of APD Chief Chacon and former Chief Manley for the police action that took place during the May 2020 protest. As we go through this process, the City is committed to ensuring transparency and the rebuilding of trust between APD and the community."
A response was not sent by the District Attorney.