Attorneys offered dueling portraits Tuesday of a violent jaywalking arrest downtown, as the civil trial over a lawsuit stemming from the controversial 2015 incident got underway.
The suit alleges that in the early hours of Nov. 6, 2015, Austin police racially targeted and beat three people accused of crossing Red River Street against the traffic light as they walked down Sixth Street.
Civil rights attorney Brian McGiverin said Austin police officers targeted Jeremy King and Matthew Wallace because they were minorities, violating their civil rights.
Officers also arrested Lourdes Glen on jaywalking charges after police said she yelled at the officers and encouraged someone to record the arrest.
The trial on Tuesday focused on King’s allegations of excessive force and civil rights violations. Glen’s portion of the suit was summarily dismissed beforehand, a ruling that McGiverin said would be appealed. Wallace filed a second lawsuit in 2017 even after prosecutors dropped the criminal charges against him stemming from the arrest.
The incident unfolded two years ago during the Fun Fun Fun Fest music festival on a typically busy corner of bar-lined Sixth Street, just after closing time. The officers, Laird said, were on bike patrol and moving traffic barricades when they spotted Glen jumping on an object, drawing their attention to a group that included King and Wallace.
King “was a jaywalker, who was picked out of a crowd of jaywalkers because he was black,” McGiverin told the jury. “He was a 22-year-old kid who was jaywalking, who the police did not believe was a threat to them.”
Gray Laird, the attorney for arresting officers Brian Huckaby and Gustave Gallenkamp, countered by pinning the escalation of the encounter to what he described as King’s defiance and insubordination.
Laird told jurors that King heard the officers’ instructions to not cross the street, proceeded anyway, and profanely encouraged his other friends to join him.
“There is a lot to this incident, to this case,” Laird said, “than an arrest for jaywalking.”
Laird also sought to downplay cell phone video that captured much of the incident and went viral, describing it as a chaotic and incomplete record of events.
“If Mr. King had simply followed (the officer’s) instructions,” he added, “all he would have gotten was a warning or citation.”
McGiverin told jurors the arrest left his client with a neck pain, a sprained wrist, bruises and cuts.
“For a couple of weeks, he had trouble putting on and talking off his own clothes,” he said. “All that, for jaywalking.”
Laird countered by saying the officer’s use of force was restrained and reasonable.
“Throughout this entire incident, these two officers … never struck him,” he argued. “They wrapped their arms around him.”
An internal investigation by Austin police cleared the arresting officers of misconduct.