Austin police and the Travis County attorney’s office announced Friday that they won’t seek to prosecute Antonio Buehler, the Peaceful Streets Project activist who was arrested in August on charges that he was interfering with police activities.
The Travis County attorney’s office said police had probable cause to arrest Buehler, but the office decided against prosecuting the case because of previous determinations by Travis County grand juries in favor of Buehler, officials said.
Buehler first gained attention on New Year’s Day in 2012, when he was arrested after a confrontation with police in which he was accused of spitting on an officer. Nearly three years later, he was acquitted of a related charge.
Buehler and his group, the Peaceful Streets Project, regularly record Austin police activities on Sixth Street, as he did on Aug. 2 when police arrested him on charges of interfering with public duties and resisting arrest.
Buehler told the American-Statesman that he would have preferred to go to trial to expose police actions, which he called criminal.
“Justice was not served,” Buehler said. “Justice will be served when police that deliberately and maliciously commit crimes are fired, charged and prosecuted.”
The two charges against Buehler were both misdemeanors and wouldn’t have needed an indictment to proceed to trial, but Austin police asked prosecutors not to pursue the charges after officials from the Travis County attorney’s office said they believed the public would find a reasonable doubt to acquit him again.
“We recognize this is an important opportunity for us to work with law enforcement and our community to make clear those types of cases where we would move forward,” Travis County Attorney David Escamilla said. “With APD’s support today, we feel we can help our community in enforcing the law, protecting law enforcement and respecting the rights of our citizens at the same time.”
A second man, a Portland, Ore., activist named Mike “Bluehair” Smith, was also arrested in the August incident. His attorney, Millie Thompson, said the county attorney also declined to prosecute him. Both were filming police on the night of their arrest.
Earlier this year, Austin City Council Member Don Zimmerman tried to get Buehler on the city’s Public Safety Commission, but a majority of the council nixed the idea after the police union president objected to the nomination, saying Buehler has displayed “hatred” for police.