A video circulating on social media that shows an Austin police officer punching a man in the face multiple times while trying to restrain him depicted the latest use-of-force incident that has come under scrutiny by police officials.
The nearly 50-second video, taken by Patrick King and posted on his Facebook account, has been viewed more than 284,000 times and shared more than 5,000 times since Wednesday morning.
The incident comes several months after Austin Police Chief Brian Manley enacted a policy in January to help de-escalate potentially violent situations and curb the use of batons, guns or stun guns.
The policy change, the result of a monthslong collaboration between police officials and community groups, came after a series of high-profile cases in which officers faced intense criticism for their use of force and what critics deemed a lack of restraint.
In 2016, video of the violent arrest of Austin teacher Breaion King garnered national attention, and a video of officers punching and using a stun gun on a man during an arrest went viral in December.
In another video that drew police scrutiny earlier this year, Austin police officials said officers who pointed guns at two boys in August 2017 had handled the situation properly. A video of the encounter, in which a boy was holding a toy that officers thought was a gun, was taken by a neighbor who shared it with the American-Statesman in May.
The incident captured on video early Wednesday in downtown Austin was triggered by a call to police about 1:25 a.m., according to court documents.
Employees at Rain, a club on West Fourth Street, told police a shirtless man was threatening employees with a 6-inch knife in his waistband, an arrest affidavit said. When police arrived, the man — identified in the affidavit as 23-year-old Justin Grant — was outside talking to Alexandria Green, 23.
Two police officers tried to put handcuffs on Grant, but he resisted, police said in the affidavit. During the struggle between Grant and the officers, Green repeatedly grabbed an officer and yelled, “He didn’t do anything!” an arrest affidavit filed against Green said.
“Alexandria interfered on three separate occasions as officers were in a fight for their lives as an armed subject with a knife was actively reaching for the knife,” police said in the affidavit.
Police got Grant on the ground, where he tensed up, rolled onto his stomach, and “began to pull his arms downward to his waistband,” making police believe he was reaching for his knife, according to court documents.
The video shows one officer grabbing Grant’s arms, while the other officer sat on top of Grant’s legs and repeatedly punches Grant in the face.
Grant was eventually restrained and booked into the Travis County Jail early Wednesday. He has been charged with possession of a controlled substance, resisting arrest and making a terroristic threat. He remained in jail Thursday with his bail set at $16,000, jail records show.
Green was charged with resisting arrest and interfering with public duties, but she was not in jail on Thursday.
Patrick King said on Twitter he was bothered by the events he caught on his phone’s camera.
“I left the scene with rage, anger, (and) disappointment,” King wrote. “I don’t think I’ve ever cried because I was so damn angry at a situation like I did this one.”
According to the Austin police de-escalation policy, supervisors will determine whether the officer who used force had first considered options to de-escalate the situation. Violations of the new rules could result in disciplinary actions, including reprimands or termination.
“Thank you for bringing this video to our attention and allowing us time to look into the incident,” Manley wrote Wednesday on Twitter. “As is standard protocol, the officers chain of command is reviewing all details surrounding this incident.”
Austin police have not said whether the officers in the video are still on patrol, saying that Manley’s tweet was all the information available at press time.
After his video was widely shared, King posted an update on Facebook and Twitter on Thursday saying he was not trying to shame the police, but he still felt they could have done their jobs better.
“Drugged up or not I felt as though the way they handled it could’ve been a little better. Am I a cop myself? No. Have I been to training? No. Would I have known what to do in the situation? Probably not because I’ve never been in it and I hope I never am. Did I know I was going to get backlash for posting this? Yes of course. Do I regret posting the video? Hell no. I have every right to voice my opinion on any situation that comes across my path and that’s what I did,” King said.