City Council voted Feb. 23 to settle three more lawsuits with protestors alleging they were harmed by Austin Police Department officers amid the downtown demonstrations of May 2020, as well as a lawsuit brought by the family of a man killed by two officers in 2017.

City officials have now moved to pay out $18.88 million to people who said they were harmed by police in 2020 during the downtown protests over police brutality, the murder of George Floyd in Minnesota and the killing of Mike Ramos in Austin.

Settlements approved Feb. 23 included:
  • $375,000 to Jason Gallagher, a Travis County resident who said he was pepper-sprayed, shoved and threatened by three APD officers;
  • $450,000 to Steven Arawn, a Travis County resident who said an APD officer shot his wrist and hand with a beanbag round, leaving him injured for months; and
  • $675,000 to Nicole Underwood, a Hays County resident who said an APD officer shot her in the torso with a beanbag round.
So far, police brutality settlements stemming from the 2020 protests have ranged from $100,000 to $8 million over various use of force incidents. Plaintiffs in those cases claimed police left them injured, disfigured and with lingering trauma.

Settlements are paid out through the city's liability reserve fund, which had a $30.21 million balance available at the start of fiscal year 2022-23.

Last summer, the APD released an internal review of how police responded to the demonstrations near the police headquarters on Eighth Street and along I-35. That report laid out various aspects of the police response in May 2020 and resulted in training and policy changes related to large-scale demonstrations. For example, the department says it has further emphasized de-escalation training and no longer utilized “less lethal” bean bag ammunition for crowd control. Nearly two dozen APD officers involved in the 2020 protests were indicted last year for intentionally injuring innocent protesters.

In 2021, the city’s Office of Police Oversight said it disagreed with how the APD internally handled the majority of complaints lodged against officers for their actions during the protests.

Settlement over Landon Nobles death

City officials also agreed Feb. 23 to a $3.3 million settlement with the family of Landon Nobles, a 24-year-old Austinite who was shot in the back and killed by APD officers downtown on May 7, 2017.

At that time, Nobles was reportedly outside a bar on East Sixth Street when a gunshot was fired. Soon after, officers approached Nobles, and he ran down the street before he was interrupted when an officer pushed a bicycle in his way, according to witness testimony.

Some APD officers who testified in the case said Nobles then turned toward police and displayed a handgun, at which point he was shot by Sgt. Richard Egal and Cpl. Maxwell Johnson. Other officers and bystanders said Nobles never had a gun in his hand and did not turn towards Egal and Maxwell when they shot him.

The lawsuit over Nobles’s death was brought by his mother, Ida Nobles, on behalf of her and his two children. The suit originally resulted in a jury verdict awarding payouts totaling $67.11 million, including $337,500 in punitive damages from Egal and Johnson, for the loss of the plaintiffs’ family member and “mental anguish” caused by his death.

That figure was later determined to be excessive, and a judge reduced the total to $8 million to be split between the plaintiffs. That judgment was then appealed by the two officers involved last September.