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Crime & Justice

Austin faces another round of lawsuits related to police use of 'less lethal' rounds

A line of Austin police officers move toward protesters on Interstate 35 on May 31.
Gabriel C. Pérez
/
KUT
Austin police used "less lethal" rounds to control crowds during racial justice protests in 2020.

Three more demonstrators are suing the Austin Police Department for injuries from so-called less-lethal ammunition fired by police over a weekend of racial justice protests in 2020.

More than a dozen protesters have sued the department for use of the ammunition, which include either foam rounds fired from a 40 mm launcher or bags filled with lead pellets fired from shotguns.

The rounds injured dozens of demonstrators protesting the police killings of George Floyd and Mike Ramos. A Travis County grand jury indicted 19 police officers on aggravated assault charges for using the ammunition.

The three new lawsuits were filed in federal court Monday.

  • Alyssa Sanders alleges Officer Eric Heim shot her in the head with a 40 mm round as she tried to flee police firing less-lethal rounds near Guadalupe and Cesar Chavez streets on May 31, 2020. The complaint says Sanders was unarmed and suffered "severe and devastating injuries." Heim faces a criminal charge for the incident.
  • Cesar Fuentez alleges an unidentified officer shot him with a less-lethal shotgun round as he fled I-35 on May 30, 2020. Fuentez's complaint says he was unarmed and that the lead-pellet bag became embedded in his arm, requiring surgery. The complaint says both APD and the city have "failed to identify which officer shot" him.
  • Taylor Ellis alleges he was shot by Officers Todd Gilbertson and Michael Crossen with less-lethal rounds near I-35 and APD headquarters on May 31, 2020. Ellis' complaint says he was hit in the left hip and left shoulder. Gilbertson faces a criminal charge in a similar incident, but Crossen has not previously been identified in investigations related to the use of force at the protests.

APD has since said it will not use less-lethal ammunition to control crowds. So far, the city has paid out $13 million in civil settlements to four demonstrators.

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