Sign up for The Brief, our daily newsletter that keeps readers up to speed on the most essential Texas news.
Two Dallas police officers are expected to turn themselves in after the Dallas County district attorney’s office issued several warrants for their arrests over use-of-force accusations against them during the racial justice protests spurred by the death of George Floyd in the summer of 2020, according to the Dallas Police Department.
Officer Ryan Mabry and former officer Melvin Williams are accused of using excessive force against protesters in downtown Dallas. Mabry and Williams face multiple counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and official oppression for their involvement in the protests.
Williams was fired on Jan. 25 for violating the police department’s use-of-force policy in a separate incident. He was caught on video punching a man last summer in Dallas and was already under two use-of-force investigations, according to The Dallas Morning News.
Both Mabry’s and Williams’ attorneys said their clients would turn themselves in but defended their clients’ actions.
Toby Shook, a Dallas attorney representing Mabry, said the protesters were intentionally seeking to agitate police and escalated the situation.
“These incidents involved here were not peaceful protests by any means,” Shook said. The officers “had a duty to suppress these riots or unlawful assemblies of folks to protect lives and property, and that’s what they did.”
The officers allegedly used so-called less-lethal projectiles, which are a crowd control measure meant to injure, not kill. But their colloquial name acknowledges their capability to kill depending on where a person is hit. They also can cause — and have caused — serious injuries.
“The only reason that [Williams] and the other SWAT members were down there and being asked to use the 40 millimeter less-lethal tools was because the protests had devolved into violent riots,” said Robert L. Rogers, a Dallas attorney representing Williams. “Every one of these instances that the [Dallas County district attorney’s office] are filing these charges on, we’re well within what the manufacturer says how to use it and [Dallas police] policy, and definitely well within the Penal Code.”
Texans protested in several cities, including in Austin, Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and Fort Worth, after Floyd was killed by a Minneapolis police officer in 2020. Cities and communities continue to grapple with the aggressive tactics that police waged against protesters during the protests.
In Austin, up to 18 Austin police officers face possible criminal charges over their actions during the protests, according to KVUE-TV. It’s unknown how many officers will actually face charges and what they would be. A grand jury could also choose to declare the use of force in each case justified and not issue any indictments.
Tens of thousands of people protested in Austin for over a week in May 2020. Many suffered a range of injuries, including traumatic head wounds and broken bones, that they claim were the result of excessive force by Austin police officers.