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Austin Police Halt 'Less Lethal Shotguns' After Case With Girl, 15

Austin, Tex., Police Department officials have suspended the use of "less lethal shotguns" that wounded Black Lives Matter protesters in 2020 and raised new concerns by prosecutors on how they were used on a 15-year-old girl suspected of no crime. The police directive followed a July 28 memo from Travis County District Attorney José Garza to Austin Police Chief Joe Chacon. Garza highlighted the case involving the 15-year-old girl — which prosecutors did not present to a grand jury but could have resulted in charges of assault, official oppression or deadly conduct against the officers involved, USA Today reports. Assistant Police Chief Robin Henderson said in a memo to the department that the directive was the result of conversations with the district attorney’s office about the weapons’ “pattern of use and legal implications, including the potential for future prosecutions therefrom."

"Effective immediately, all sworn personnel will cease the use of less lethal shotguns," the memo added. “This cessation may be temporary as [the police department] and the [District Attorney’s office] complete their dialogue." After the social justice protests three years ago, the department said they would not use the "less lethal" weapons, which fire beanbag rounds for crowd control but have also been used in other instances. The use of the weapons during protests had resulted in several serious injuries and 19 indictments against Austin police officers, with all but one of those cases still pending. Henderson wrote that police want an opportunity to give prosecutors more information on the basis of the department’s training and policies concerning the munitions. Before Friday’s order, Austin police were allowed to use the munitions if a person was engaging in “riotous” behavior such as throwing objects at officers or buildings; if a person was armed and the munitions might cause the person to drop a weapon; if the person had made a credible threat about hurting themselves or others; or if a person was refusing to obey orders and there was a belief that they had already committed a violent crime. Officers were required to give a warning before firing the weapon.


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