The Austin Police Department has released the names of officers allegedly involved in firing "less-lethal" rounds into crowds protesting on May 30 and May 31. In the wake of George Floyd's murder, Austinites had gathered to protest police brutality and racial inequality, igniting weeks of demonstrations across the city.
On June 26, the department issued a short release naming five officers who have been placed on paid administrative duty during the investigation, as well as their length of time on the force.
- Nicholas Gebhart — 7.5 years
- Kyu An — 3.5 years
- Kyle Felton — 1 year
- Derrick Lehman — 10 years
- John Siegel — 3.5 years
APD's investigation is looking into the use of "Level 1 less lethal force" during protests that occurred over the last weekend of May in front of APD Headquarters, Austin City Hall, and the Texas State Capitol. Though details of the report do not identify exactly which incidents are the subject of the investigation, at least three protestors were hospitalized, two critically, after being struck by "bean bag bullets," which are shot out of modified .22 shotgun.
According to the APD General Orders, a Level 1 incident is the highest use of force. Among the criteria for a Level 1 is "use of any impact weapon, including kinetic energy projectiles, and improvised weapons, that strikes the head of a subject" and "any force that resulted in serious bodily injury requiring admittance to the hospital, beyond emergency room treatment and release."
Texas State student Justin Howell and 16-year-old Levi Ayala were shot in the head during the protests. Both were hospitalized and underwent emergency surgery. Saraneka Martin, who was pregnant, was shot in the stomach and also hospitalized.
Social media footage of police officers firing projectiles into the crowds ignited outrage across the city, with some residents calling for APD Chief Brian Manley to be fired. (Austin City Manager Spencer Cronk, who is by charter the only person allowed to fire Manley, has said he will not do so.)
In the hours leading up to APD's release, Austin City Council Member Greg Casar tweeted that the news was coming, saying:
Today, the City plans to release investigation info about critical injuries to #blacklifematters protesters, including names of officers. Finally.— Gregorio Casar (@GregCasar) June 26, 2020
I believe this would have taken much, much longer if it were not for the community push. We need justice for these families.
According to APD, these cases remain ongoing and the department will continue to update the public.