Indictments dropped for 17 Texas officers in George Floyd protest response
“These announcements will allow police officers, whose lives were upended by the indictments, to return to their services to our community,” said Austin Mayor Kirk Watson
By Paul J. Weber and Jim Vertuno
AUSTIN, Texas — A Texas prosecutor whose office oversaw indictments against more than 20 Austin police officers for tactics used during the 2020 protests that followed George Floyd’s killing said Monday he was dropping most of the cases and would ask the Justice Department to investigate instead.
The announcement is a sharp reversal for Travis County District Attorney Jose Garza, a progressive who was elected months after the protests and ran on promises to hold police accountable in the Texas capital. Garza, a Democrat, said his office would dismiss indictments against 17 officers but still move forward with prosecuting four others.
The slate of felony charges were by far the most indictments of officers from a single U.S. police department following nationwide protests in 2020. Some Austin police officers fired beanbag rounds in the crowd, critically injuring one teenager.
“This has been a difficult chapter for Austin. I look forward to turning the page. These announcements will allow police officers, whose lives were upended by the indictments, to return to their services to our community,” said Austin Mayor Kirk Watson, a Democrat who was not in office at the time of the protests.
In a statement, Garza did not explain why he was deciding now to drop most of the cases. Many of the officers were indicted in February 2022, none had gone to trial and Republican Gov. Greg Abbott had floated the idea of pardons after the charges were handed down by a grand jury.
Ken Ervin, an attorney who represents nine officers whose charges will be dismissed, called the indictments a “combination of politics and incompetence.”
“Mr. Garza has not really taken the chance to educate himself on police tactics,” Ervin said. “Maybe he’s finally done that.”
The City of Austin has paid out more than $18 million to settle lawsuits brought by protesters injured during the protests, including a college student who suffered brain damage after an officer shot him with a beanbag round. Eight other lawsuits are still pending, according to the city.
Austin Police Association President Michael Bullock said prosecutors had yet to prove any case where any officer committed wrongdoing.
“Our officers were faced with incredible and unprecedented challenges. In those extremely difficult times they acted within the law and upheld their oath to keep our city safe,” Bullock said.