AUSTIN, Texas — On Thursday, a Travis County grand jury unveiled at least 19 indictments for Austin police officers accused of excessive force during the police protests of 2020. Among those indicted is Texas House candidate Justin Berry (R-District 19).
A spokesman for Berry told KVUE they "have volumes to say but can't comment until a judge takes action."
On Friday, Berry's campaign tweeted out a statement regarding the indictment which was soon deleted. In the statement, Berry said Austin Police Department Chief Joseph Chacon said the officer "did nothing wrong" and that an APD internal investigation had "long since cleared" him and the 18 other officers.
He also expressed confidence that he and the other officers would be acquitted.
"Not one of the officers I have spoken to are worried about a conviction. This case is far beyond preposterous," he wrote in part. "The question is not how this prosecution will turn out. We will be acquitted."
Berry also accused Travis County District Attorney Jose Garza of using his office to influence his own campaign and "go after" law enforcement officers.
Here's the full statement:
According to his campaign page, Berry is a 14-year senior police officer. He is running under tenants such as safer neighborhoods, stronger public and higher education, a free market economy and to defend constitutional rights.
"As a 14-year senior police officer, I work daily to protect our families and build safer communities," his page states. "With the 'defund the police' movement and the raging border crisis threatening public safety across our state, it's more important than ever to support law enforcement."
His campaign also states that he has been endorsed by the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas (CLEAT), National Association of Police Organizations (NAPO), Joe Gamaldi (VP of Fraternal Order of Police), the Texas Municipal Police Association (TMPA), the Department of Public Safety Officers Association (DPSOA) and the National Border Patrol Council.
Thursday's indictments are expected to be the largest of any U.S. city following the unrest of George Floyd's murder in 2020. The 19 indicted officers will be placed on administrative duty until their cases are resolved, according to Austin police.
"Our community is safer when our community trusts enforcement. When it believes law enforcement follows that law and protects the people who live here," Travis County District Attorney Garza said in a press conference on Thursday. "When the community does not believe that is true, it is less likely to report crime. People are less likely to act as witnesses. People are more likely to take the law into their own hands. If people do not trust law enforcement, our community is less safe. There cannot be trust if their is no accountability when law enforcement breaks the law."
Meanwhile, both the Austin Police Department and members of the Austin Police Association and CLEAT have voiced their disagreement with the district attorney's office.
"As a department, we asked these officers to work under the most chaotic of circumstances in May of 2020 and to make split-second decisions to protect all participants. The size, scope and tenor of the crowds was underestimated by management," said APD Chief Joseph Chacon. "Officers were prepared for hundreds, when instead they faced thousands, placing them in potentially the worst possible circumstances to manage escalating crowds. While certainly not every moment of the protest could be classified as a 'riot,' there was significant portions of times that the crowds were riotous and violent."
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