Austin to Pay $10 Million to People Hurt by Police in 2020 Protests

The payout will cover the damages from the George Floyd protests

NBC 5 News

The Austin City Council on Thursday approved paying a combined $10 million to two people injured when officers fired beanbag rounds into crowds during the 2020 social justice protests, including a college student who suffered brain damage.

The settlements are among the largest paid to people who were injured by police across the U.S. during massive protests that followed the killing of George Floyd.

The largest of the Austin settlements gives $8 million to Justin Howell, who was 20 years old when police shot him with a beanbag round. Family members told The Associated Press following the incident that Howell suffered a cracked skull and brain damage, leaving him in critical condition for multiple days.

The city will also pay $2 million to Anthony Evans, who was 26 when an Austin police officer shot him with a beanbag round in a separate incident, which resulted in extensive medical treatment in his jaw.

Austin Mayor Steve Adler said the settlements "remind us of a real difficult and painful moment in our city." A representative for the Howell family did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

It is the latest reflection of how, two years after the protests that swept across the country, cities are still addressing the injuries and tactics used by police. Earlier this month, prosecutors announced charges against two Dallas police officers accused of injuring demonstrators after firing less-lethal munitions.

After the protests in Austin, then-Police Chief Brian Manley later said Howell was not the intended target after an altercation in a crowd, which he said involved people who threw objects at a line of officers. Authorities have said that led to the officers firing at the mass of protestors from above.

David Frost, who captured on video the moments after Howell was shot, told the AP that he saw protesters throwing fist-sized rocks and water bottles at the line of police on an overpass. Then he saw Howell fall. He was bleeding heavily and went into a seizure, Frost said at the time.

Frost's video shows that as medical volunteers moved Howell to a safe place, officers again opened fire towards them.

The settlements are the second and third payments awarded among a dozen lawsuits filed in Austin that have claimed injuries from the protests. Earlier this month, The Austin American-Statesman reported that a $150,000 settlement was approved for a woman named Ariana Chavez, who was shot in the head with less-lethal munition resulting in a concussion.

At least 19 people were hospitalized in Austin following the protests. Dr. Kristofor Olson told the AP he was on duty at the Dell Seton Medical Center emergency room in Austin when the patients -- ranging in age from 16 to 54 -- came in. He said he was shocked at the volume of people coming in with beanbag injuries both nights in late May.

Eleven officers were disciplined for their actions in the early summer protests, with seven additional officers placed on administrative duty.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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