APD Downtown headquarters (Picture by John Anderson)
Travis County District Attorney José Garza campaigned on shaking up the status-quo solution to holding regulation enforcement accountable (or not) for misconduct. A few months into his administration, he is providing on that promise.
Garza introduced right now, Jan. 22, that two Austin Police Division officers, Gregory Gentry and Likelihood Bretches, were being indicted by a distinctive grand jury on Jan. 20 for aggravated assault by a community servant, a initially-diploma felony less than the Texas Penal Code. A third, unnamed officer was no-billed by the grand jury the two felony circumstances are awaiting trial in Choose Karen Sage’s 299th District Court docket.
The indictments stem from a violent arrest at a Northeast Austin condominium complex in March 2019 charging paperwork show that officers struck the suspect with their fingers, elbows, and knees. The arrest obtained no public attention at the time, and the officers were being cleared in an APD Inner Affairs investigation into the circumstance. For that reason, the indictments secured by Garza have despatched shockwaves by means of the local law enforcement energy construction, provoking unusually prompt and blunt statements from Police Main Brian Manley, the Austin Police Affiliation, and Ken Ervin and Doug O’Connell, the protection attorneys symbolizing Gentry and Bretches (between other officers going through possible costs from Garza).
In 2016, Bretches and two other APD officers ended up sued by plaintiff Hunter Pinney, who alleged he was subject to fake arrest and extreme drive in 2013 it’s unclear how that scenario was fixed. Bretches is also one of the APD officers underneath prison investigation by Garza’s business in connection with the May possibly 30-31 Black Life Make any difference protests he’s alleged to have injured volunteer medic Maredith Drake with a “less lethal” direct-pellet round as she tried to have one more injured protester to basic safety. Garza expects the May 30-31 situations to be presented to a grand jury in the early tumble of 2021. APD declined to explain to the Chronicle if Bretches was disciplined for his alleged involvement in either of these incidents.
Consternation above the indictments was reflected in a statement from Ervin and O’Connell. “We are gravely involved that the judgment of newly elected D.A. Garza, whose lifelong prosecution encounter is composed of seven months, is that both equally officers dedicated 1st-degree felonies punishable by everyday living in jail,” the assertion reads. They also known as on Garza to “record and transcribe all grand jury proceedings involving legislation enforcement officers” so the general public can be “confident in truthful and extensive proceedings.” These proceedings are commonly top secret, as the lawyers know, and the D.A.’s Business could facial area legal challenges if it intends to disclose them.
A assertion from Manley – a uncommon response to these types of indictments – claims of the arrest: “This incident was reviewed in accordance with APD policy in 2019 and the officers’ actions were considered compliant with plan and instruction.” The assertion also indicates that the situation was reviewed by the APD Govt Crew, the Exclusive Investigations Device which handles investigations into officers accused of criminal perform, the Office of Police Oversight, and team lawyers underneath then-D.A. Margaret Moore. “Based on the Department’s conclusions that the officers’ carry out was within just coverage,” the statement carries on, “the situation was not forwarded to the D.A.’s Civil Rights Division.”
Sara Peralta, a spokesperson with OPO, claimed in a assertion that the business office was briefed on the circumstance on April 19, 2019, and at the time, OPO director Farah Muscadin “expressed considerations on the amount of pressure applied to the APD Govt Team.” In October 2019, OPO obtained a grievance from the personal associated in the arrest, which OPO then forwarded to APD as a official grievance. That led to APD opening an inner grievance into the incident on the other hand, the inside and external issues were being shut “without any formal investigation,” according to OPO.
“OPO strongly believes,” the statement concludes, “that complaints from the neighborhood, significantly individuals involving use of drive need to be instantly investigated to assure correct external critique and procedural justice for neighborhood customers.”
Travis County District Lawyer José Garza (Image by David Brendan Hall)
Manley’s assertion prompted a reaction from Garza. “The likely prison carry out in query arrived to the attention of the Office’s Civil Legal rights Unit final calendar year,” the next statement reads. “Two seasoned senior Assistant District Attorneys examining the narcotics scenario were being adequately anxious by the conduct they observed” to independently warn the CRU, whose director Dexter Gilford – employed by Moore and retained by Garza – introduced the scenario forward to the grand jury last year, but by the time it was all set for presentation in March 2020, COVID-19 had hit Travis County and pressured grand juries to disband.
Reached by cell phone Friday afternoon, Moore stated she could not recall the particulars of why the place of work had not originally moved forward with a case. “I don’t remember if the situation was referred to us by SIU,” Moore explained to the Chronicle, noting that these a referral is just 1 way the D.A. can occur throughout evidence that deserves an investigation of regulation enforcement. “There have been communications with me in the previous by the law enforcement administration … instances where by they had reviewed a case and determined policy was not violated, and ended up not heading to ship it to us” for criminal prosecution. “But from time to time circumstances have been opened after our possess interior review, [or after] other lawyers convey evidence.”
Moore noted she experienced structured the CRU so it could run as independently as attainable. “I gave them a wonderful deal of authority to go after their individual situations. It would not be strange for them to perform on a situation with out me recognizing until finally it was ready for presentation,” Moore instructed us. The previous D.A. speculated that by the time grand jury proceedings resumed with COVID-19 basic safety protocols in position, other circumstances may have attained bigger priority. “We were being expending a wonderful offer of time on the [Javier] Ambler situation,” Moore claimed, referring to the 2019 demise of an unarmed Black man for the duration of an arrest by APD officers and Williamson County Sheriff deputies. “Because of confined grand jury time and other investigations that were having location that involved deaths, [the Gentry and Bretches] situation would have been waiting for time to be offered.”
Overall body cam footage of the 2019 arrest has not been released publicly, but multiple resources who have found it explained it as disturbing. APD declined to remedy concerns about the arrest or indictment posed by the Chronicle, like a ask for to release the overall body cam footage, which Garza said he supports. “To the extent that Main Manley and other people have fears about the conclusions reached by the Travis County grand jury, I urge them to launch all the pertinent online video footage so our community can review it.”
APA president Ken Casaday was stunned at the indictments simply because the circumstance had been reviewed by APD investigators, OPO, and the previous D.A. “Nobody, such as myself, likes lousy corrupt cops,” the union manager told us. “There are some conditions remaining reviewed ideal now that are very suspect, but this just one surprises me. Any use of force appears to be like negative, but I am just floored with the D.A.’s determination. I feel he will have an particularly challenging time prosecuting when all all those people stated could be named in as witnesses.”