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(Video Credit: FOX 4 Dallas-Fort Worth)
Austin’s Democratic district attorney has indicted nineteen police officers on felony assault charges in connection to the violent 2020 Black Lives Matter protests, widening the rift between the Austin Police Department and leftist politicians.
Austin Police Chief Joseph Chacon defended his officers after the indictments were issued, according to CBS Austin.
“As a department, we asked these officers to work under the most chaotic or circumstances in May of 2020 and to make split-second decisions to protect all participants,” he said. “Officers were prepared for hundreds when instead they faced thousands, placing them in potentially the worst possible circumstances to manage escalating crowds.”
Homicides have skyrocketed in the city and violent crime is rising at an unprecedented rate following the Democrat-controlled city council voting unanimously to cut the police department’s funding by approximately $150 million, about one-third of its budget, in August of 2020. Mayor Steve Adler is also being blamed for the cuts. The defunding of the police resulted in a wave of retirements and departures by officers in 2021.
During the riots, police cleared roads of protesters that had illegally occupied the area. Officers faced and fought off large groups of people who threw bottles and rocks at them and attempted to storm police headquarters. Over a dozen officers were injured by protesters during the unrest.
BREAKING: 19 Austin police officers have now been indicted on criminal charges stemming from the 2020 protests in Austin, according to union president Ken Casaday, who has been briefed on the charges by attorneys representing officers. https://t.co/HPtKxGAeJ4
— Tony Plohetski (@tplohetski) February 17, 2022
Austin joins other large, liberal cities such as Seattle and Minneapolis that have had police precincts abandoned by leadership and then occupied by violent radicals. Those police headquarters were destroyed by the rioters. Austin police managed to stop a movement similar to Seattle’s CHOP/CHAZ from forming in the Texas capital.
Activist Jose Garza ran for Travis County District Attorney on the Democratic ticket in 2020. His platform included prosecuting police officers and he is following through on that promise. He has indicted at least 25 officers in 14 months. A local news investigation by KVUE found that Garza is reducing and dismissing charges against accused offenders at a record pace, downgrading hundreds of cases in just a few months.
On Thursday, Garza held a notably strange press conference where he predicted charges against a number of Austin police officers in a statement that was confusing since he did not name the officers or specify the charges they face despite having already secured indictments against them.
“An indictment handed down by a grand jury is a preliminary decision that probable cause exists to believe a crime was committed,” Garza stated. “It is not a statement as to the guilt or innocence of any person indicted. That determination will not be made until much later in the process.”
Fox News got a hold of the list of officers Garza has indicted and what they are being charged with. All 19 are being charged with first-degree felony charges for aggravated assault by a public servant even though all but one officer has previously been investigated and cleared of any wrongdoing.
Coincidentally, one of the officers, Justin Berry, is in the middle of a primary race for the Texas House of Representatives as a Republican, so Garza’s timing is suspect.
In a press conference on Thursday, Austin Police Association President Ken Casaday asked if Garza’s timing of the preview he conducted on Thursday and the charges he will move forward with at an unspecified date are related to politics.
“It’s an absolute disgrace, and it sickens me that DA Garza is using working officers as pawns in a political game of chess,” Casaday raged during a press conference.
“The department issued these officers old and deteriorated beanbag rounds,” attorney Doug O’Connell told Fox News in an interview. “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 admitted. “But it doesn’t make the officers’ actions illegal or a criminal offense.”
#19Strong I want to thank six fantastic defense lawyers for defending #19Strong and making sure they were treated fairly as they self surrendered today. I know these attorneys, CLEAT and our community will support #19Strong until final resolution.
— Kenneth Casaday (@KennethCasaday) February 19, 2022
KXAN is reporting that the Austin City Council approved on Thursday two settlement agreements with protesters in the amount of $10 million.
Dennis Farris, who is the president of the Austin Police Retired Officer’s Association told Fox on Thursday that Garza is waging a “war” on police.
“Today in Austin, Texas we see another front in the war on police in this country,” Farris remarked. “These indictments are strictly political in nature and this is what he ran on when he ran for district attorney. In issuing these indictments today he knows he will never get one conviction of any officer in these cases.”
“Texas’ Soros-funded leftist DA Jose Garza is attacking Austin Police for protecting us against the 2020 BLM riots,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said. “We should defend those who protect us – instead of those who commit crimes. I stand in support of the cops that Garza wants to destroy. These officers deserve the presumption of innocence until proven guilty.”
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