Two of the 19 Austin police officers indicted for their actions during 2020 protests over racial injustice were involved in cases that the city paid millions of dollars to settle, according to documents made public Tuesday.
The release of the documents by the Travis County District Attorney’s office was the first time details including names of the officers charged were made public since prosecutors announced last week that a grand jury had decided the officers should face first-degree felonies. Grand juries do their work in private.
All of the officers are charged with aggravated assault by a public servant over the injuries of a total of 10 people.
The charges rank among the most indictments i n a single police department in the U.S. over tactics used by officers during the widespread protests after the killing of George Floyd. That came days after Austin City Council members voted to approve a total of $10 million in settlements for two people injured by police in the protests.
Attorneys Douglas O’Connell and Ken Ervin, who represent eight of the indicted officers, said that the police department’s internal affairs division investigated their clients and cleared them of wrongdoing in the same actions for which they’re now criminally charged.
Two officers are charged in the shooting of Justin Howell, a then-20-year-old college student who police said was shot in the head unintentionally, leading to a skull fracture and brain damage. One of those officers is also accused of shooting Anthony Evans, whose injuries required extensive surgery in his jaw. If both settlements are accepted, Howell will receive $8 million from the city of Austin — one of the largest settlements in cases connected to late May 2020 protests — while Evans will receive $2 million.
A spokesperson for the Travis County District Attorney’s office, Ismael Martinez, declined to comment on the indictments.