AUSTIN, Texas (AP) – Five Austin police officers charged paid administrative work while investigating the use of what the authorities call “less lethal” violence during protests against police brutality and racial injustice, according to police in May.
The investigation follows public outrage after two people who took part in protests in Austin caused by the death of George Floyd were seriously injured by officers’ beanbags – ammunition that law enforcement deems’ less deadly ‘than bullets.
Officers Nicholas Gebhart, Kyu An, John Siegel, Derrick Lehman and Kyle Felton were investigated from Friday and their duties are limited.
An Austin police spokeswoman said in an email on Tuesday that the department could not confirm whether the agents were involved in the cases of 20-year-old Justin Howell or 16-year-old Brad Levi Ayala, who were both in the hospital recorded after being accidentally shot in the head with beanbag rounds during protests the last weekend of May.
The statement cited ongoing investigations in its reasoning to limit the release of information.
The Austin Police Association did not immediately respond to The Associated Press for comment on Tuesday.
Paid administrative duties limit the type of work officers can do during their investigations. Austin Police Policy says officers can be paid pending investigation into a force that resulted in serious bodily harm that required hospitalization and the use of impact weapons.
Austin’s Special Police Department and Home Affairs Department work according to the statement to identify other agents involved in protest-related incidents.
Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, died on May 25 after begging for air, while a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee to Floyd’s neck for nearly eight minutes. His murder sparked protests worldwide against racism and police brutality. Protesters in Austin and across the country took to the streets, and the police used, but not deadly, in some skirmishes had devastating consequences.
From 1990 to 2014, rubber bullets caused 53 deaths and 300 permanent disabilities in 1,984 serious injuries registered by medical workers in more than a dozen countries, according to Rohini Haar, an emergency room in Oakland, California, and lead author of the 2016 Doctors for Human Rights Report .
Austin Police Chief Brian Manley said that during a special meeting of the Austin City Council on June 4, Austin Police would no longer use less deadly ammunition in mass situations. More than 300 people signed up for public comment at the meeting to speak about the use of force by the police. witnessed the protests in late May.
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