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Texas House candidate Justin Berry is among Austin officers indicted on excessive force charges, union president says

By Andrew Zhang, The Texas Tribune

Texas House candidate Justin Berry is among Austin officers indicted on excessive force charges, union president says” was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

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Republican Texas House candidate Justin Berry was among 19 Austin police officers indicted Thursday and accused of using excessive force during 2020 protests, Austin Police Association president Kenneth Casaday told The Texas Tribune.

The indictments, which have not yet been made publicly available, stem from the 2020 protests in Austin after a Minneapolis police officer murdered George Floyd, an unarmed Black man.

Berry’s attorney declined to confirm or deny his indictment Thursday. The cases against the Austin officers could take months or years to resolve. The Austin American-Statesman first reported that Berry was among those indicted.

Berry is one of four Republicans seeking the GOP nomination in the March 1 primary election for Texas House District 19, a district west of Austin that includes Fredericksburg, Boerne and Burnet. It was not immediately clear how the indictment would affect his campaign.

The district’s boundaries were redrawn during the redistricting process last year. The seat is currently held by state Rep. James White, a Hillister Republican, who isn’t seeking reelection because he is challenging Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller next month.

During the summer of 2020, thousands of people flooded Austin streets and highways during Black Lives Matter protests, leading to clashes with police officers that turned violent. The number of officers indicted is among the highest tied to a single city’s police force in connection with the 2020 protests so far, according to the Associated Press.

Austin Police Chief Joseph Chacon defended the actions of his officers in a press conference following the indictments Thursday. Chacon said his officers were overwhelmed by crowds that were often “riotous and violent.”

In his own press conference Thursday, Travis County District Attorney José Garza said that he believed many people injured during the protests were innocent bystanders and that some people who suffered serious injuries will never recover.

In 2020, Garza won his election as DA on a platform that included holding law enforcement officials accountable.

Casaday, who said he is a friend of Berry and was present with the indicted officers Thursday, joined Chacon and police backers in decrying the move.

Casaday accused Garza of trying to score political points, and the union is asking him to pause the indictments until after the March 1 primary.

“These officers did what they were told to do by their supervisors, and the DA indicted them for it,” Casaday said.

Reese Oxner contributed reporting.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2022/02/17/austin-police-indictments-justin-berry/.

The Texas Tribune is a member-supported, nonpartisan newsroom informing and engaging Texans on state politics and policy. Learn more at texastribune.org.

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