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Texas Governor Condemns Charges Against 19 Cops Indicted For Riot Response, Floats Idea Of Pardons

Austin, TX – Texas Governor Greg Abbott on Wednesday blasted the indictments brought against 19 Austin police officers for their actions in the line of duty during the George Floyd riots and said he was watching to see if he needed to “take action to exonerate any police officer unjustly prosecuted.”

Abbott issued a statement of support for the accused police officers on Feb. 23.

“Last year, Austin set an all-time record for the number of murders. It comes as no surprise that murders increased after Austin decreased funding for law enforcement,” the governor began.

“In Texas, we do not defund and denigrate our law enforcement officers,” Abbott’s statement continued. “Instead we support them for risking their own lives and safety to protect our communities from people who endanger and attack our communities.”

“In 2020, Texas experienced violent protests that wreaked havoc on our cities. In Austin, law enforcement officers defended the state Capitol from criminal assault, protected the Austin Police Department headquarters from being overrun, cleared the interstate from being shut down, and disrupted criminal activity in areas across the city,” the governor said.

Then he went on to acknowledge the facts that many police reform advocates have ignored.

“Many officers were physically attacked while protecting Austin. Those officers should be praised for their efforts, not prosecuted,” Abbott said.

“Time will tell whether the accusations against the courageous Austin police officers is a political sham,” the governor’s statement read. “Time will also tell whether I, as Governor, must take action to exonerate any police officer unjustly prosecuted.”

A Travis County grand jury indicted 19 Austin police officers for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon for their actions in the line of duty during the George Floyd riots in 2020, but the police chief and the city manager have argued no criminal charges were warranted.

Critics have accused Travis County District Attorney Jose Garza of having made it his mission to make an example by criminally charging as many police officers as possible, The Washington Post reported.

“Our community is safer when our community trusts enforcement. When it believes law enforcement follows that law and protects the people who live here,” Garza told reporters when he announced the indictments. “There cannot be trust if there is no accountability when law enforcement breaks the law.”

Garza refused to reveal details of the specific indictments, the Associated Press reported.

The names of all of the indicted officers have not yet been released, in accordance with a Texas law that prohibits it until after an officer has been arrested.

Austin Police Officer Justin Berry revealed that he was one of the officers who had been charged, FOX News reported.

Officer Berry is running for Texas House District 19, located just west of Austin.

“This has nothing to do with justice, has nothing do with any wrongdoing,” he told FOX News. “This is simply about politics and a political agenda that has taken place with these radical liberal district attorneys.”

Officer Berry said he and the other officers acted lawfully in their attempt to stop the violent riots as rioters threw frozen water bottles and other projectiles at them.

The candidate said the Travis County district attorney was using the indictments to strip local law enforcement of the power to enforce the law, FOX News reported.

“This simply about politics and a political agenda that is taking place with these radical liberal district attorneys,” Officer Berry said. “If they can’t defund us and get rid of us that way—now they’re going to try and de-police us by sending us to prison and indicting us.”

Officer Berry was charged with aggravated assault by a public servant.

The crime is a first-degree felony that carries a maximum sentence of life in prison, FOX News reported.

Austin Police Chief Joseph Chacon said he respected the grand jury process but was “extremely disappointed” by Garza’s announcement, the Associated Press reported.

Chief Chacon, who was not chief at the time of the Floyd protests, said commanders had prepared officers to face hundreds of demonstrators, but thousands of protesters showed up and turned the demonstrations into riots.

The police chief described the scene as “riotous and violent” at times, the Associated Press reported.

“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 told reporters at a press conference held after the indictments were announced.

Dozens of protesters sustained injuries from the less-lethal munitions used by Austin police during the riots, The Washington Post reported.

Chief Chacon said that some of the beanbag rounds did not always perform “in the manner anticipated” and so the police department has prohibited the use of “less lethal munitions in crowd-control situations” in the future, but he said his officers should not be held criminally liable for the results of using equipment they were provided, the Associated Press reported.

Police union officials blamed police department leadership, rather than the rank-and-file who were out battling rioters, for providing the defective munitions, The Washington Post reported.

The city of Austin recently settled lawsuits by two protesters who were injured for a combined $10 million.

One of the men had a fractured skull and the other had a fractured jaw, according to The Washington Post.

It wasn’t clear if any of the newly-charged officers were directly connected to either of the recently-settled cases.

Austin City Manager Spencer Cronk, a nonelected official who has more power than the mayor over local law enforcement, condemned the 19 indictments, The Washington Post reported.

“Any indictments will heighten the anxiety of our officers and will impact the staffing shortages we are experiencing,” Cronk said in a statement.

Written by
Sandy Malone

Managing Editor - Twitter/@SandyMalone_ - Prior to joining The Police Tribune, Sandy wrote the Politics.Net column for the Wall Street Journal and was managing editor of Campaigns & Elections magazine. More recently, she was an internationally-syndicated columnist for Conde Nast (BRIDES), The Huffington Post, and Monsters and Critics. Sandy is married to a retired police captain and former SWAT commander.

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Written by Sandy Malone

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