Skip to Content

Assault charges dropped against 17 Austin police officers in 2020 George Floyd protests as city officials request DOJ investigation

By Sara Smart and Elizabeth Wolfe, CNN

(CNN) — A Texas prosecutor has dropped indictments against 17 Austin police officers who were charged with assault after being accused of injuring demonstrators during the 2020 George Floyd protests, and city officials are asking the US Justice Department to investigate possible police misconduct within the department.

Travis County District Attorney José Garza requested the federal probe after his office’s investigation into the Austin Police Department officers’ actions “revealed problems within the department that cannot be corrected by criminal prosecutions alone,” the prosecutor’s office said in a social media post on Monday.

The May 2020 demonstrations in Austin were part of a nationwide movement against police brutality in the wake of Floyd’s death, which was captured on video and showed a Minneapolis police officer kneeling on Floyd’s neck as he pleaded for help.

Several Austin officers were facing charges of aggravated assault by a public servant for “intentionally, knowingly, and recklessly” causing serious bodily harm to people during the protests, officials previously said. In total, a Travis County grand jury returned felony indictments against more than 20 Austin Police Department officers in connection with their use of force, the city said in a statement Monday.

Garza alleged in 2022 that many protesters injured by the officers were innocent bystanders, the majority of whom suffered serious injuries. The city has since paid millions of dollars to settle civil lawsuits brought by people injured at the protests.

The district attorney’s office said in a Facebook post Monday that 17 of the indictments have been dropped and the office will only move forward with prosecution against four remaining officers.

In a letter to the Justice Department on Monday, Austin Mayor Kirk Watson and Garza requested the agency conduct a “pattern-or-practice” investigation into the police department’s use of force for crowd control during the 2020 protests, “where officers used deadly weapons & caused serious injury to many protestors,” according to the office’s Facebook post.

“Officers used ‘less lethal’ bean bag rounds to control crowds and protect property” the letter said. “In doing so, the APD officers caused serious bodily injury to numerous protestors and community members.”

The mayor and district attorney said they are seeking the federal investigation, in part, to ensure “that any response to similar protests in the future will not result in unnecessary or unlawful use of force.”

“The request for a targeted third-party performance review is meant to enhance transparency for our community and inform future actions as we continue our focus on building respect and trust for our police,” Watson said in a statement Monday.

The city has paid more than $18 million to resolve civil lawsuits brought by protestors, and eight such suits are still pending, the letter to the Justice Department said.

In one of the city’s settlements, protestor Justin Howell received $8 million. Then a 20-year-old student at Texas State University, Howell suffered a fractured skull and brain damage after a beanbag round struck him in the head, his brother told CNN in June 2020.

CNN has sought comment from the Justice Department.

™ & © 2023 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

This story has been updated with additional information.

Article Topic Follows: CNN – National

Jump to comments ↓

Author Profile Photo

CNN Newsource


News Channel 3-12 is committed to providing a forum for civil and constructive conversation.

Please keep your comments respectful and relevant. You can review our Community Guidelines by clicking here

If you would like to share a story idea, please submit it here.

Skip to content