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Crime & Justice

Austin approves two more 'less-lethal' lawsuit settlements, bringing the tab to $15 million

Demonstrators gather outside Austin Police Department headquarters on June 4 to protest the police killing of George Floyd.
Gabriel C. Pérez
/
KUT
Demonstrators gather outside Austin Police Department headquarters on June 4 to protest the police killing of George Floyd.

Austin has now paid out roughly $15 million in settlements related to the Austin Police Department's use of so-called "less-lethal" ammunition to control crowds during social justice protests in May 2020.

Police used foam shells fired from 40mm launchers and lead pellet bags fired from shotguns at protests sparked by the police killings of George Floyd and Mike Ramos. After backlash, the department said it would no longer use them to control crowds.

On Thursday, the Austin City Council approved two settlements totaling $950,000. Plaintiff Tracy Cates sued the city and an unnamed APD officer late last year, alleging an officer shot her with a "deadly projectile" and that the officer violated her civil rights.

While the complaint filed in federal court does not specify what kind of projectile, it does cite other injuries from the department's use of the ammunition as evidence for Cates' complaint. The city offered Cates $100,000 to settle the suit.

The city also granted $850,000 to Christen Warkoczewski, a demonstrator who was shot in the face with a lead-pellet-filled bag on I-35. Warkoczewski's complaint alleges "at least one" APD officer shot her with one of the rounds, which hit her jaw and had to be surgically removed. Nine APD officers are facing charges of aggravated assault in relation to Warkoczewski's injuries, including GOP Texas House runoff candidate Justin Berry.

In February, 18 officers were indicted on aggravated assault charges over use of the rounds at protests.

The total $15 million paid out to demonstrators who say they were targets of excessive force includes multimillion-dollar settlements for two demonstrators who suffered severe head trauma after being shot in the head.

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