AUSTIN, Texas — Of the 19 police officers recently indicted in the 2020 Austin protests for aggravated assault involving the use of less-lethal rounds, nine are accused of shooting at the same woman.
Those nine officers have been identified as Justin Berry, Joshua Blake, Jeremy Fisher, Todd Gilbertson, Christopher Irwin, Joshua Jackson, Alexander Lomovstev, Brett Tableriou and Stanley Vick.
According to court documents, the officers are accused of firing at and injuring a woman named Christen Warkoczewski during the George Floyd protests on May 31. Based on graphic photos provided to KVUE by Edwards Law in Austin, she suffered severe injuries to her cheek and was hospitalized.
Lawyers said the injuries required surgery to repair her broken jaw and correct serious damage to her face. According to the lawsuit, the bean-bag round remained lodged in her face until hours later when it had to be surgically removed at the hospital.
Warkoczewski filed a lawsuit in August 2021 against the City of Austin. She claimed she was shot while running away from officers who had fired tear gas into the crowd on Interstate 35. She said when she saw a tear gas cannister near her, she placed a traffic cone over it and ran back toward the crowd, which is when she was shot.
Attorney Rick Cofer, attorney and partner with Cofer & Connelly in Austin, says with cases like this one, it can be difficult to prove who fired their weapon.
"These are all going to be difficult cases for the District Attorney to prosecute. That doesn't mean they should be prosecuted. It doesn't mean they shouldn't be prosecuted. It just means that it's not the same as prosecuting a car burglary or something else," said Cofer.
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“Shooting someone in the head while they are demonstrating against police violence, while also running away from officers, cannot be tolerated by any police department,” said Jeff Edwards, Warkoczewksi’s attorney, in August. “Christen went out that day to be an ally to the Black community and to show that everyone should believe Black lives matter. Instead of respecting her First Amendment rights, the Austin Police Department responded by shooting her in the head and breaking her jaw.”
Earlier this month, the City of Austin announced two settlements in separate protest use-of-force lawsuits. The City voted to pay $8 million to Justin Howell and $2 million to Anthony Evans. Howell's case marked the largest settlement amount ever paid for a use-of-force case in Austin's history.
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