Jury: Austin police officer used excessive force in jaywalking arrest

However, arrested man not entitled to damages, jurors decide.


Highlights

A jury decided Friday that one Austin officer used excessive force when arresting a man for jaywalking.

However, the jury also decided that the officer is protected from liability for civil damages.

A federal jury decided Friday that one Austin police officer used excessive force when he tackled, punched and handcuffed a man for jaywalking in downtown Austin, but the person who was arrested is not entitled to damages.

The weeklong civil trial over the Nov. 6, 2015, incident concluded with the jury also determining that Austin police officers Brian Huckaby and Gustave Gallenkamp did not racially profile Jeremy King, who is black, when they arrested him, said King’s attorney, Brian McGiverin.

Though the jury agreed that Gallenkamp did use force that was greater than it needed to be, it decided that, as a public servant, the officer was entitled to qualified immunity, meaning he is protected from liability for civil damages, McGiverin said.

Still, McGiverin said he was at least glad that his client, Jeremy King, was somewhat vindicated. An internal Austin police investigation had cleared the arresting officers of misconduct, he said.

“If we hadn’t filed this lawsuit, none of the facts of the case would have come to light,” McGiverin said. If a jury took issue with Gallenkamp’s actions but police did not, “it shows that the Internal Affairs process we have in place is dysfunctional.”

Austin police officials said they will to need to thoroughly review the verdict and decide whether to take any disciplinary action against Gallenkamp or others.

At the time, the officers said they arrested King and two of his friends, Matthew Wallace and Lourdes Glen, for crossing East Sixth Street at Red River Street against a “Do Not Walk” sign. A friend recorded their arrest and the video went viral on social media as people questioned the officers’ tactics.

Gray Laird, the officers’ attorney, told jurors that King heard the officers’ instructions to not cross the street, proceeded to do so anyway, and profanely encouraged King’s other friends to join him as he crossed the street.

“There is a lot to this incident, to this case,” Laird said, “than an arrest for jaywalking. … If Mr. King had simply followed (the officer’s) instructions, all he would have gotten was a warning or citation.”

Six Austin police officers, including Huckaby and Gallenkamp, were involved in the arrests. In the viral video, one of the officers appears to hold one of the men in a chokehold.

McGiverin told jurors the arrest left his client with neck pain, a sprained wrist, bruises and cuts.

“For a couple of weeks, he had trouble putting on and taking off his own clothes,” he said. “All that, for jaywalking.”

In a statement, King said he was glad he brought the matter to trial.

“The verdict was not what I decided to focus on this week,” King said. “Instead, I rested each night knowing I was truly were I belonged. A place we have earned through sacrifice as a people, and must appreciate. The fact that I was able to exercise my right to trial, as a young man in America. Able to freely speak and apply pressure to what I saw as injustice around me is a win and a privilege.”



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