AUSTIN, Texas — On Thursday, the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas (CLEAT) and Austin Police Association called on Travis County District Attorney José Garza to cease the grandstanding with any announcements regarding cases involving the prosecution Austin Police Department officers until after the Democratic primary and runoffs, KXAN reported.
This comes as APA said there could be a statement Thursday or Friday announcing the indictment of a number of officers involved in the 2020 riots.
Garza scheduled a grand jury to consider charging over twenty police officers for their response to violent riots in Austin following the death of George Floyd, Law Officer reported last week.
At least 21 officers are facing potential charges for deploying less lethal munitions at rioters who were blocking I-35, the main interstate through Austin, and refusing to disperse after multiple instructions by police to do so. At issue is the condition of the beanbag rounds, which were reportedly out of date and caused severe injuries to rioters.
“The district attorney is using this case to drive voters to the polls,” said Ken Casaday, APA president. “He is driving people to vote for a far-left radical ex-city councilman who is running for Congress. Greg Casar did more to ruin the city of Austin through spearheading the defunding of the police movement more than anyone else in the history of the city of Austin, and DA José Garza is following in his footsteps.”
A spokesperson for Casar said that, as a council member and now as a Congressional candidate, he (Casar) has no bearing or influence over these cases.
The DA’s office did not respond to the news outlet as they sought a comment.
“If there are officers who have done something wrong we understand, but these officers were only doing what they were told to do with the equipment the city of Austin provided them during those days of the riots,” Casaday said, according to KXAN.
In a press release sent from CLEAT, it states that “the timing of these politicized cases is intended to drive up voter turnout during the early voting period of the Democratic primaries for the George Soros anti-police candidates.”
APA—which has had a contentious relationship with Garza—as well as an attorney for some of the officers targeted by the grand jury say that the Austin Police Department provided defective less-lethal munitions to officers who responded to the unrest, Law Officer reported.
“The department issued these officers old and deteriorated beanbag rounds,” attorney Doug O’Connell told Fox News. “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 and it shouldn’t have happened but it’s not the officers fault it’s management’s fault.”
“It’s probably a very righteous personal injury case,” O’Connell said. “But it doesn’t make the officers’ actions illegal or a criminal offense.”
CLEAT released a statement supporting the officers’ position.
“There is absolutely no doubt that bean bags fired by officers severely injured protesters who were involved in rioting in the streets,” the statement said. “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.”
“Rank and file police officers have ZERO decision making authority over the manufacturing, purchasing, storage or deployment of any ammunition,” the statement added. “These incidents are a clear indictment on the department leadership. We can damn sure guarantee you that if the officers knew the rounds were expired and defective, they would have never used them. No APD patrol officer has ever been expected to disassemble issued beanbag rounds or any type of ammunition themselves to gauge their usability. This was a responsibility of department leadership.”
CLEAT Executive Director Charley Wilkison posed several probing questions in the statement.
“Why was the ammunition destroyed before it could be tested? The ammunition was evidence,” Wilkison asked. “Evidence was destroyed. Why are certain documents being withheld by the city? When did the Mayor, Mayor Pro-Tem, City Manager, Chief of Police, Assistant Chief and Commanders know? These are the questions we want to see answered.”