Sign up for The Brief, our daily newsletter that keeps readers up to speed on the most essential Texas news.
Two North Texas police officers and a former police officer were indicted Friday on felony charges accusing them of using excessive force against demonstrators protesting against police brutality in May 2020.
Dallas police officer Ryan Mabry and former Dallas officer Melvin Williams were indicted on multiple felony counts of aggravated assault by a public servant and deadly conduct for their involvement with the protests, according to a press release from the Dallas County district attorney’s office. Garland police officer Joe Privitt was indicted on one felony count of aggravated assault by a public servant. The indictments come after nearly two years of investigation, District Attorney John Creuzot said in the release.
Mabry is accused of firing or threatening to fire so-called less-lethal projectiles at three people, according to some of his indictments.
The projectiles 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 have also caused serious injuries.
“The full story hasn’t been told; you have to look at everything that went on downtown to understand the reasons that the officers had to eventually use force,” Mabry’s lawyer, Toby Shook, said Friday.
Shook said he is confident Mabry will be found not guilty based on “strong evidence” and “statutes that allow officers to use force [when] dispersing a riot.” He added that while many protesters were demonstrating peacefully, it was the “agitators” who were met with projectiles after they blockaded streets and tried to “whip up the crowd.”
“It was a riot,” he said. “There was looting. There were some people who started there, they were there protesting peacefully. Those people weren’t hurt. A lot of protesters, when asked to disperse, would. It’s the persons who didn’t that obviously caused the problem and the violence and the property damage.”
The indictments for Williams and Privitt were not available late Friday. The press release announcing the indictments did not detail the specific actions they allegedly took against protesters.
Arrest warrants were issued for Mabry and Williams in February. Each also faces three counts of official oppression. Williams is also alleged to have used so-called less-lethal projectiles.
Williams’ attorney did not respond to an immediate request for comment. It was not immediately known if Privitt is represented by an attorney.
Following the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer, protests against police departments’ excessive use of force and mistreatment of people of color erupted around the country and in several Texas cities, including Austin, Houston, San Antonio and Fort Worth, in addition to Dallas.
In Austin, 19 police officers face felony charges for excessive use of force during the May protests. Nine of them — including Texas House candidate Justin Berry — are accused of shooting lead-pellet beanbag rounds at the same woman, according to Travis County indictments.
Before facing the charges for his involvement in the 2020 protests, Williams was fired in late January for a separate incident in which he violated the department’s use-of-force policy during a July 2021 incident captured on video. The video shows Williams repeatedly punching a man in the face during a brawl in Deep Ellum. He was already under two use-of-force investigations, according to The Dallas Morning News.