The union representing police in Austin, Texas, issued a warning to George Soros-backed District Attorney Jose Garza after he charged two officers over a use-of-force incident in 2019 for which they had previously been cleared.
“So why are we here? The biggest reason we are here is because District Attorney Garza believes his sole role is to prosecute officers,” the Austin Police Association wrote in a Facebook post Jan. 22, following the indictment of officers Chance Bretches and Greg Gentry.
“Instead of going after violent criminals who continue to terrorize our city, he uses his time to maliciously prosecute these officers in an attempt to gain political favor from the activist community that he seeks to serve,” the post continued.
“Mr. Garza, hear this. The Austin Police Association will not stand idly by while you use the hardworking men and women of the Police Department as pawns in your delusional game of political chess,” the post, which was ‘signed’ by all members of the association’s executive board, added. “The APA will take an active stance highlighting to the community your anti-police agenda and motivations behind your political decisions to unjustly prosecute officers who were lawfully fulfilling their duties to keep Austin safe.”
Earlier this month, a grand jury indicted the two officers on charges of aggravated assault by a public servant, which is a felony, “following an altercation with a suspect as the pair tried to break up an alleged narcotics deal” in March of 2019, KXAN reported. Both officers and the suspect were hurt.
But a previous review of the incident by the APD Executive Team, Special Investigations Unit, and the Force Review Board found that the officers’ use of force complied with department regulations and was not inappropriate.
APD officials also said the department worked with then-District Attorney Margaret Moore, noting that, “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.”
However, officials with the Office of Police Oversight said they received a complaint from the suspect involved in October 2019 and forwarded it to the APD. The department subsequently opened another investigation in March 2020, but “both internal and external complaints were closed without any formal investigation,” the department said, according to KXAN.
Nevertheless, Garza claimed that two senior assistant district attorneys “identified potential misconduct and brought it to the Office of Civil Rights Unit,” adding they independently contacted the unit, leading to yet another investigation. It was approved to be presented to a grand jury last year.
“Holding law enforcement accountable when they break the law is critical to rebuilding community trust, and also to the safety of our community,” Garza said.
In its Facebook post, the police union noted that the area of the city where the incident occurred in March 2019 had seen an “uptick” in narcotics trafficking. The APA also said that the two officers in question witnessed a transaction and moved in to make the arrests.
“When you get an opportunity to see the body cam video from this case, you will see that one subject is compliant and is taken into custody with minimal issue. The other subject actively resists arrest and while doing so, reaches towards his waistband with both hands. In response to this resistance, force is used to place this individual under arrest,” the APA post noted, adding that the suspect who resisted pleaded guilty to narcotics possession and is serving a three-year sentence.
“The facts are there aren’t any policy violations in this case. There aren’t any law violations in this case. The suspect in this case pleaded guilty because the department had overwhelming evidence to convict him of the crime,” the APA post notes further. “There is also overwhelmingly strong evidence that the force used in this case was objectively reasonable and by its very definition, did not violate any policy or law of the State of Texas.”
Other Texas police organizations suspect the charges are political.
“Since the DA is not reopening any old cases of assault against officers, then, of course, this is a political stunt from another insatiable publicity seeking politician,” the Combined Law Enforcement Association of Texas noted in a statement.
Both officers were placed on administrative duty where they will remain until the criminal proceedings are over, KXAN reported.
“The consensus was that the officers’ use of force was lawful and appropriate,” attorneys Ken Ervin and Doug O’Connell told the outlet in the statement. “We are gravely concerned that the judgment of newly-elected DA Garza, whose lifelong prosecution experience consists of seven weeks, is that both officers committed first-degree felonies punishable by life in prison.”
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