The Austin District Attorney has set a grand jury to charge over twenty police officers for their response to area George Floyd riots.
D.A. Jose Garza (D) of Travis County, TX wants the newly formed grand jury to look at events that transpired on May 30 and 31, 2020 near the Austin Police Headquarters, Fox News reported. They aim to determine whether charges should be brought against Austin Police Department (APD) officers who may have caused injury to protestors using less than lethal rounds.
When responding to the riots, the APD officers in question utilized department-issued bean bags, rubber bullets and tear gas in an attempt to disperse the protest after rioters refused to listen to police instructions to vacate Interstate 35.
Attempts to block interstates like the one that runs through Austin connecting to other major cities, including Dallas and San Antonio, is illegal. The portion of I-35 that was being blocked was also outside APD Headquarters, leaving the facility effectively under siege for the duration of the riots.
Doug O’Connell, an attorney representing the APD, told Fox News, “The department issued these officers old and deteriorated beanbag rounds. So rather than coming out as a soft beanbag they came out as a hardened projectile…so you had rioters who were seriously injured by these beanbags.”
Though O’Connell admits that “it shouldn’t have happened,” he added that, “it’s not the officers’ fault it’s management’s fault.” He went on to conclude that the officers’ actions do not equal an “illegal or a criminal offense.”
A statement was released by the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas (CLEAT), which is the largest police union in Texas, that supports O’Connell’s statements in pointing fault for injuries caused by defective beanbags at management.
“There is absolutely no doubt,” the statements said, “that bean bags fired by officers severely injured protestors who were involved in rioting in the streets.”
CLEAT’s statement goes on to point out: “What the media doesn’t know is that Austin Police Department management knew or should have known that the bean bags being fired were expired and defective. Austin Police Department leadership was repeatedly made aware of the bean bag issues and declined to take action and replace the defective bean bag rounds.”
The statement also explained that the officers Garza seeks to charge do not in any way have, “authority over the manufacturing, purchasing, storage or deployment of any ammunition,” further asserting that the officers would never have used faulty equipment if there was a way for them to have known about defects and that “was a responsibility of department leadership.”
According to O’Connell, all uses of force were cleared of criminal offense already by a Special Investigations Unit through “collected evidence…interviews, statements…witnesses,” and, “body-worn camera video.”
Accusations are being directed at Garza of setting the grand jury up to produce the outcome he wants. O’Connell explained that the officers “are not being allowed to testify before the grand jury and they’re not being called as witnesses. And also, the police officers themselves are not being invited to testify before the grand jury.”
“And so what we have is another case,” O’Connell added, “where Jose Garza is manipulating what the grand jury hears in order to produce a desired outcome.”
Dennis Farris, President of the Austin Police Retired Officer’s Association who served 25-years with the APD told Fox News that going after the police is the platform that Garza ran on.
“…in the last 14 months he’s been the D.A.,” Farris said adding the 21 officers in question, “he will have indicted close to 30 police officers.”
“He’s even looking at more,” Farris went on. “He’s even talked about going back and looking at cases that were cleared by his predecessor.”
“He literally ran on, I’m going to put cops in jail,” Farris said citing political motivations for the grand jury.
Garza’s office declined to comment to Fox News on the grand jury case.
The APD could not comment, citing pending litigation.
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