/  02.18.2022

A grand jury indicted 19 police officers in Austin, Texas on Thursday (Feb. 17) over their treatment of Black Lives Matter protesters in the city in 2020. According to the Associated Press, the group of officers is among the largest number of cops from a single city to be indicted over the protests so far.

The officers are accused of using excessive force against demonstrators, many of which Travis County District Attorney José Garza says were “innocent bystanders.”

“We believe many protesters injured by law enforcement officers during the protest were innocent bystanders. We also believe that the overwhelming majority of victims in the incidents that were investigated suffered significant injuries,” Garza said Thursday. “Some will never fully recover.”

At a press conference, Austin Police Chief Joseph Chacon claimed the officers were only following orders and shouldn’t be held responsible for protesters’ injuries.

“I am not aware of any conduct that, given the circumstances that the officers were working under, would rise to the level of a criminal violation by these officers,” he said. “We are at the beginning of the criminal justice process. As we move forward, these officers must be afforded all of the same protections of any defendant, including the presumption of innocence and the right to a speedy trial.”

“These officers were only doing what they were told to do with what the City of Austin provided them during the days of the riots,” he added.

Also on Thursday, Austin officials agreed to a $10 million settlement with two protesters who were shot by police with beanbag rounds. The Austin City Council unanimously approved an $8 million settlement for demonstrator Justin Howell and $2 million for protester Anthony Evans.

Both Evans and Howell sued the City of Austin after suffering serious head injuries from being shot with the beanbag rounds while protesting the police killings of George Floyd and Michael Ramos. The police department has since stopped using less-lethal weapons.

According to Garza, the names of the indicted cops will not be revealed until after they are arrested and booked into jail.

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