The Austin Police Department has named five officers it says may be responsible for seriously injuring people demonstrating during the first weekend of protests against systemic racism and police violence.
The following officers have been put on paid administrative leave, as is APD policy, while the incidents are under investigation:
- Officer Nicholas Gebhart, 7.5 years with APD
- Officer Kyu An, 3.5 years with APD
- Officer Kyle Felton, 1 year with APD
- Officer Derrick Lehman, 10 years with APD
- Officer John Siegel, 3.5 years with APD
At least two protesters were seriously injured by police during the last weekend of May, as hundreds of people protested the police killings of George Floyd in Minneapolis and Mike Ramos in Austin. Police fired bags filled with lead pellets from shotguns at demonstrators, hitting several people in the head.
Police Chief Brian Manley said earlier this month the department is investigating a total of 10 incidents in which police are accused of injuring protesters.
Twenty-year-old Justin Howell was one of two people critically injured after being hit by lead-pellet bags. His brother, Joshua, spoke with KUT after the incident, calling on the department to end the use of the ammunition that's billed as "less lethal."
"If it's less lethal than a bullet, that's a low bar," he said. "Anything fired out of a shotgun at 90 miles an hour can be lethal."
In an op-ed this week, the Texas A&M graduate student repeated that call and said this brother had been transferred to a long-term rehabilitation facility after three weeks in intensive care.
Brad Levi Ayala, 16, was shot in the head with a lead-pellet bag. His brother told City Council earlier this month that it damaged a part of his brain and that he was in a lot of pain and having trouble controlling his emotions.
APD did not provide any additional information Friday, including which officers were involved in which incidents or if the officers listed were responsible for all the injuries by police during protests. An APD spokesperson said the department likely would not be identifying which officers were responsible for which injuries out of a concern for the officers’ safety.
Council Member Greg Casar said APD told him, however, that the list did include the names of the officers who shot Ayala and Howell. Casar said he was disappointed by the lack of information APD released Friday.
“It still falls short of the level of transparency the public deserves,” he told KUT, adding that the department should have also released a timeline of the investigations.
Andrew Weber contributed to this report.
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