AUSTIN, Texas - Travis County District Attorney José Garza announced indictment charges have been brought against two APD officers. A third indictment charge was also brought against a corrections officer with the Travis County Sheriff’s Office.
The indictments against the APD officers are related to an arrest in March 2019 in which the officers allegedly caused bodily injury.
On January 20, APD Officers Gregory Gentry and Chance Bretches were indicted for the felony offense of Aggravated Assault by A Public Servant, Serious Bodily Injury/Deadly Weapon, a first-degree felony. The Grand Jury also returned a no bill on a third officer related to this incident.
A two-count indictment was brought against Travis County Sheriff’s Office Corrections Officer Shannon D. Owens on December 16, according to Garza.
Owens has been charged with the felony offenses of Aggravated Perjury and Tampering with a Governmental Record with the Intent to Defraud or Harm Another. "Situations like this are rare and difficult. While we hate to have to investigate one of our own employees, it is our duty and we take it seriously," TCSO Sheriff Sell Hernandez said in a statement after the indictment was announced in a press release.
"With respect to the aggravated assault indictment, I am grateful to the Assistant District Attorneys who identified potential misconduct and brought it to the Office’s Civil Rights Unit," said Travis County District Attorney Garza. "Holding law enforcement accountable when they break the law is critical to rebuilding community trust, and also to the safety of our community."
Austin Police Chief Brian Manley released a statement after the indictments were announced. According to Manley, the officers were engaged in a drug interdiction operation in response to a recent complaint regarding increased drug activity and recent shooting incidents. The officers observed two subjects, one who appeared to be engaging in multiple narcotics transactions and approached the subjects to investigate.
As officers approached, the second subject was taken into custody, however, the subject observed in suspected narcotics dealing did not comply with officers directions and resisted their attempts to secure him in handcuffs, according to Manley. A struggle ensued as the officers attempted to overcome the suspect’s resistance, resulting in injuries to both the suspect and the officers.
The suspect was transported to the hospital for treatment of his injuries.
"This incident was reviewed in accordance with APD policy in 2019 and the officers’ actions were deemed compliant with policy and training. This review included members of the APD Executive Team, the Special Investigations Unit (for compliance with criminal statute), and the Force Review Board (who reviewed the incident from tactics and training perspective)," according to the statement released by Manley.
"The Office of Police Oversight reviewed this incident on April 19, 2019, including video of the incident, with members of the APD Executive Team. Additionally, APD staffed this case with the former District Attorney and based on the Department’s findings that the officers’ conduct was within policy, the case was not forwarded to the DA’s Civil Rights Division."
Chief Manley also went on to note that APD respects the role the Grand Jury holds in the criminal justice process and will continue to cooperate with the District Attorney’s Office as needed on this case.
The defense counsel for Officers Bretches and Gentry also released a statement following the announcement from the Travis County District Attorney's office:
This use of force was reviewed by the Austin Police Department’s Special
Investigations Unit, the Force Review Board, the officers’ chain of command including Chief Manley, and former elected D.A. Margaret Moore. The collective experience among these individuals spans decades. The consensus was that the officers’ use of force was lawful and appropriate. We are gravely concerned that the judgment of newly elected D.A. Garza, whose lifelong prosecution experience consists of seven weeks, is that both officers committed first-degree felonies punishable by life in prison.
We are forced to conclude the grand jury that heard this case was only given
information calculated to produce indictments. Once again, we call on Mr. Garza to fulfill his promise of transparency and record and transcribe all grand jury proceedings involving law enforcement officers so that judges, defense attorneys, and ultimately the public can be confident in fair and thorough proceedings. Mr. Garza’s job is to see that justice is done. It is not to accumulate police officer indictments to make good on a campaign talking point.
We are pleased to see Chief Manley joining us in taking a stand against these
improper indictments and we expect to see the officers acquitted at trial.