APD: One in critical condition following weekend protests

Police Chief Brian Manley discusses weekend events and APD response

Talk 1370 Newsroom
June 01, 2020 - 6:58 pm
Austin Police Chief Brian Manley

courtesy Austin Police Department

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AUSTIN (Talk1370.com) -- One person is in crticial condition after weekend protests in the downtown area, Austin Police Chief Brian Manley said Monday, as some City Council members are questioning some of the department's actions.

Manley gave an update to the media Monday on APD's response to the protests and a number of cases where the department is investigating the actions of officers involved. On Thursday afternoon, Manley will provide City Council with a briefing on the protests and answer questions from council members during a specially-called meeting.

Overall, Manley said the weekend saw protesting that "we have not seen before" in Austin. "Our focus was on protecting peaceful free speech and giving people the space to come out and express their concerns over what had happened in these incidents, as well as just general concerns with police-community relationships and other issues," Manley said. "What we saw was others joined that groups for means outside of that peaceful protest, and that's when we saw many acts of violence carried out with objects being thrown at officers."

In the first case APD is investigating, Manley said a 20-year old black male was struck in the head with a bean bag round around 11 p.m. Sunday evening outside police headquarters. The incident was captured on one of the department's HALO cameras, and Manley said the video shows the victim standing next to another individual who is seen throwing items at officers, first a water bottle and then a backpack. An officer fired the non-lethal bean bag round, striking the victim, who fell to the ground and hit his head.

A crowd of protesters moved the victim across the street to render aid; once they realized he needed medical attention, other officers reportedly opened fire with the bean bag rounds, including one person who was shot in the hands. The original victim was eventually handed over to police, who proceeded to load him into an ambulance and transport him to a nearby hospital. Manley said he remains in critical condition.

A second incident under investigation happened Saturday afternoon, Manley said, where a Hispanic teenager around 15 years old was struck in the forehead with a bean bag round, sustaining what Manley described as serious injuries. Manley said the department is reviewing available video footage of the incident.

A third incident Manley mentioned involved a pregnant black woman, who was reportedly shot in the stomach with a bean bag round. Manley said the investigation into that case is also ongoing, and that the woman was immediately assisted by both medics and APD personnel.

Manley pleaded for anyone with videos or pictures of any of these incidents to send them to police, to aid in the investigation.

"We are a department that has regularly participated in these free speech events, either marching with or giving space to those that are marching. And the only rules that we ever have is that we don't allow for any violence or destruction, but we will give the space necessary for our community to speak," Manley said.

Manley said the department is on a two-shift staffing model and will remain there for the time being, with every officer working day or night shift until further notice. A potential curfew was dicussed with City Manager Spencer Cronk and Austin Mayor Steve Adler, but Manley said all agreed to hold off on taking that step.

Manley also addressed the decision to use CS gas, more commonly referred to as tear gas, on protesters who were blocking the interstate Sunday afternoon. "We've also always had a rule that we do not allow people to overtake IH-35. That is the major Interstate in our city, and when IH-35 is closed, that puts others lives in danger," Manley said.

Manley said the decision to use the gas was based on the size of the crowd, and officers' experience trying to clear protesters off of the interstate Saturday afternoon and the desire to avoid individual confrontations between protesters and officers. Manley said later on Sunday, when a much larger group of protesters again overtook the mainlanes, the mere act of officers preparing to again deploy tear gas was enough to quickly clear the protesters off the mainlanes.

The department has defined policies for the use of less-lethal rounds as well as using tear gas to disperse crowds. Manley said that those criteria were met in these cases.

Manley said 15 officers sustained minor injuries during the course of the weekend.

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