On Thursday, a Texas grand jury indicted 19 Austin police officers on charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon for their actions during 2020 protests over racial injustice that ignited nationwide following the killing of George Floyd, according to the Associated Press.
Prosecutors have not identified any of the officers facing charges as Texas law requires that an indictment remain secret until an officer has been arrested.
The indictment ranks among the most indictments on a single police department in the U.S.
Word of the indictments came shortly after The Austin City Council approved paying $10 million to two people badly injured by police in the protests, including a college student who suffered brain damage after an officer shot him with a beanbag round.
During a news conference, Travis County District Attorney José Garza, who has been in office 14 months and ran on a platform of police accountability and criminal justice reform announced, “Many protesters injured by law enforcement officers during the protests were innocent bystanders. Some will never fully recover.”
Garza continued, “Our community is safer when our community trusts enforcement. When it believes law enforcement follows that law and protects the people who live here. There cannot be trust if there is no accountability when law enforcement breaks the law.”
USA Today reported, Austin Police Chief Joseph Chacon, who was an assistant chief at the time, was disappointed by the indictments. Chief Chacon expressed that officers were working under chaotic circumstances, repeatedly attacked by rocks, bottles of bodily fluids and other objects thrown at them as the department only anticipated hundreds of protesters, but crowds grew to several thousand people.
Chief Chacon said, “I am not aware of any conduct that, given the circumstances that officers were working in, would rise to the level of a criminal violation by these officers.”