Austin police won’t release body cam footage of protest injuries until county D.A. makes call on cases

Protesters march in the Justice for Them All demonstration June 7. (Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)
Protesters march in the Justice for Them All demonstration June 7. (Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)

Protesters march in the Justice for Them All demonstration June 7. (Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)

Despite the Austin Police Department’s recently adopted policy requirement to release body cam video of critical incidents within 60 days of the event, APD announced today that until the Travis County District Attorney makes a call on the cases, it will not release footage of serious injuries sustained by protesters at the hands of police during protests in late May and early June.

The move comes after a July announcement in which APD said it would not release the body cam footage on time because doing so might “impact the integrity of the ongoing criminal investigations into the incidents.”

Among the incidents are two high-profile cases. During the protests, Austin police shot 16-year-old boy Brad Levi Ayala in the face with a “less-lethal” bean-bag bullet as he stood alone on a hill, unarmed and only yards away from police officers. Police also shot 20-year-old Justin Howell in the head with the same ammunition.

Ayala and Howell survived but were in critical condition following the incidents. Speaking to City Council in June, Austin-Travis County EMS Chief Ernesto Rodriguez estimated a long and difficult recovery for both victims.

Bystander video of Ayala getting shot in the face went viral, intensifying local protests and prompting calls to defund the police department and to fire Austin Police Chief Brian Manley.

The Sept. 11 announcement from APD said it would not release the body cam footage until the DA made a call on how to handle the cases. District Attorney Margaret Moore’s office did not immediately return calls for comment.

Local criminal justice advocate Chris Harris, who worked to help draft the policy, said the announcement and reasoning from the police department is a “slap in the face to the spirit and letter of the policy.”

“The policy was designed to assume transparency on body cam footage,” Harris said. “There is supposed to be an explicit public safety reason for any exception. We can only assume it’s an effort to shield the department from further negative press.”
By Christopher Neely
Christopher Neely is Community Impact's Austin City Hall reporter. A New Jersey native, Christopher moved to Austin in 2016 following years of community reporting along the Jersey Shore. His bylines have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Baltimore Sun, USA Today and several other local outlets along the east coast.


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