DALLAS — A grand jury has indicted two Dallas police officers and a Garland police officer accused of assaulting protesters who were marching in support of George Floyd during the summer of 2020, according to the Dallas County District Attorney's office.
Sr. Cpl. Melvin Williams and Sr. Cpl. Ryan Mabry, both SWAT officers with Dallas police, were initially charged in the case in February. Garland police officer Joe Priviit was also indicted on Friday.
Mabry has been indicted on six charges of aggravated assault by a public servant and two charges of deadly conduct.
Williams was indicted on four charges of aggravated assault by a public servant and two charges of deadly conduct.
Privitt was indicted on one aggravated assault by a public servant charge.
During a press conference Friday, Dallas Police Chief Eddie Garcia said indictments against officers are difficult for any department and said this process has been "unprecedented."
"If the actions of that day rose to the level of criminal intent, that is for a jury to decide at this point. I hope those individuals who will judge those officers do so through a lens of what all of our officers experienced while protecting Dallas in one of the most chaotic times in its history," said Garcia.
The Dallas Police Association also held a press conference Friday afternoon, calling the indictments an overstep of judicial power and authority.
DPA President Mike Mata said that they stand by both Williams and Mabry.
Garland Police Chief Jeff Bryan said he was both "astonished and disappointed" about the indictments against Privitt.
He said he sent officers to assist Dallas police as the situation evolved, pointing out his officers faced dangerous threats, including people brandishing firearms, lighting fires, and throwing rocks and bottles. He said his officers had to make, "split-second decisions under the most dangerous of circumstances to protect their lives and the lives and property of the citizens of Dallas, often placing themselves in harm’s way while doing so."
Bryan said that Privitt is one of the Garland Police Department's highly decorated officers over the last 32 years with no disciplinary record.
"I have not seen the evidence against Officer Privitt that rises to the level of the criminal conduct that has been alleged by the Grand Jury, which is Aggravated Assault, by threat, from a public servant," said Bryan.
Privitt's attorney, Cody Skipper, said that his client has zero investigations in his internal affairs file outside of a traffic accident.
"This case is, well, no case," Skipper said. "It's horse manure is what it is."
He also sent out a lengthy biography of Privitt that says the 57-year-old has been a church deacon for the past 15 years and that he's received 37 letters of commendation from the City of Garland.
Williams had previously been terminated from the department on Jan. 25 for violating the department’s use of force policy when officials said he repeatedly punched a man in the head while trying to intervene in a large fight in the middle of Elm Street. Video captured the incident.
Williams' attorney, Robert Rogers, told WFAA that he's eager to get his client in front of a jury.
"I'm so confident that 12 jurors will hear this case and make findings of not guilty -- we just gotta get to that point," Rogers said.
Mabry has been with the department since January 2010 and is currently assigned to the Tactical Operations Division. Officials said he is on administrative leave pending the outcome of an internal affairs investigation.
Court documents have said Mabry and Williams fired foam "sponge" rounds -- a less-lethal type of ammunition -- at protesters in Downtown Dallas in May 2020.
Body camera footage of one such incident showed Mabry enter the field of view, then raise, point, and shoot one round from a 40mm launcher containing an impact foam projectile in the direction of protester David McKee.
According to an affidavit, body camera footage also captured Williams "opening his 40 mm launcher and removing a spent cartridge from the launcher."
According to the same affidavit, McKee told investigators that “the first shot went through his cardboard sign and struck his right bicep, and the second shot, fired moments after the first shot, struck his left testicle and thigh, and that the injury to his left testicle required surgery."
Among the other protesters injured by the sponge rounds was Brandon Saenz, who was hit in his left eye and had to have it surgically removed.
He was hit with a sponge round on May 30, 2020, as he protested near Dallas City Hall.
"Then all of a sudden I heard a boom and I got heat,” said Saenz.
Court documents said that the sponge round was fired by Mabry.
Garcia said the less-lethal tools that police used not only on the days of the protests but on a daily basis have "have saved hundreds of lives, have made it so officers would not have to go to lethal, what we believe is true lethal force."
Garcia said his department will look into the tactics they use and into possibly modifying those tactics.
But he noted, "the goals are to defend our protestors, to protect our officers, and to ensure that this city doesn’t burn. Those are the goals that will always be the goals."
Daryl Washington, one of the attorneys representing both Saenz and McKee, said his clients were "relieved" upon hearing the news that the officers had been indicted.
"The injuries that they suffered were very egregious," Washington said of his clients. "And we just thought that it was appropriate that [the officers] were indicted for these injuries."