Austin police names officers involved in less-lethal protest shootings

Austin Police have released the names of officers who allegedly fired “less fatal” shots at crowds on May 30 and 31. Following the murder of George Floyd, the Austinites had rallied to protest police brutality and racial inequality, and sparked weeks of demonstrations across the city.

On June 26, the department issued a short notice identifying five officers who had been given paid administrative services during the investigation and their length of service.

  • 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 examines the use of “Level 1 less lethal violence” in protests held outside APD headquarters, Austin City Hall and the Texas State Capitol over the last weekend in May. Although details of the report do not specify exactly which incidents are under investigation, at least three protesters were hospitalized, two critically after being hit by “beanbag balls” fired from a modified .22 shotgun.

According to the APD General Orders, a Level 1 incident is the greatest use of force. Level 1 criteria include “the use of impact weapons, including kinetic energy projectiles, and improvised weapons that strike a subject’s head” and “any force that resulted in serious bodily harm that is admitted to hospital beyond the emergency need room handling and dismissal. ”

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. The pregnant Saraneka Martin was shot in the stomach and also hospitalized.

Social media footage of police officers firing projectiles into the crowd sparked outrage across the city. Some residents demanded the dismissal of APD boss Brian Manley. (Austin City manager Spencer Cronk, who according to the charter is the only person allowed to fire Manley, has stated that he will not.)

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 investigative information into critical injuries suffered by protesters by #blacklifematters, including the names of officials. After all.

I think it would have taken much, much longer if it hadn’t been for the community push. We need justice for these families.

– Gregorio Casar (@GregCasar) June 26, 2020

According to the APD, these cases are still ongoing and the department will continue to update the public.

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