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Dallas DA Asks For Help Investigating Police Use Of Force Against Protesters

Dallas District Attorney John Creuzot talking during a press conference, in front of a partially visible bronze State of Texas seal.
Christopher Connelly
/
KERA News
Dallas District Attorney John Creuzot asked the public for help investigating three separate instances during a May 30 protest in which police officers used "less than lethal" weapons against demonstrators, causing serious injury. He asked for people with video or photos of the incidents to come forward, and hopes to use the media to help determine whether the uses of force were criminal acts.

Dallas District Attorney John Creuzot is looking for video and photos of police using "less than lethal" weapons and seriously injuring demonstrators during protests against police brutality in late May and early June.

The Dallas County District Attorney wants help investigating police use of force during protests earlier this year. Thursday, DA John Creuzot held a press conference asking for video and photos of three different incidents at a May 30 protest in which Dallas police officers fired “less than lethal” projectiles at protestors, causing serious injuries.

No charges have been filed against any of the officers involved. The district attorney says he is trying to determine whether the incidents warrant criminal charges.

Last month, Creuzot announced a probe into arrests and use of force by the Dallas Police Department during the protests that erupted after the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer.

Creuzot said Thursday that he tasked his prosecutors with looking into injuries sustained by protesters after he saw news stories about a man losing an eye after a police officers shot him with a “less than lethal” weapon, and images in which a Dallas police sergeant appears to fire pepper balls into a woman’s chest at close range. A third incident is under investigation, in which someone was hit in the face with a projectile fired by an officer.

A television monitor displays a message from the Dallas District Attorney on a blue background asking for people to contact the office if they have photos or video of police using weapons that injured protestors in late May and early June.
Christopher Connelly
The District Attorney's Office also wants to know if there are other instances in which Dallas police injured protesters this summer.

But these investigations have stalled, and Creuzot said his department needs more evidence to evaluate whether these incidents constitute criminal acts or justifiable uses of force.

“What we’re interested in seeing is the direction of the projectile. We want to see it from the firing all the way, if we can, to the contact with the individuals. That’s important to us,” Creuzot said.

“We don’t know if these are crimes. We’re investigating, so obviously they’re potentially crimes. And so we want to be certain,” he added.

The district attorney urged people to email or call his office if they have video footage or photos that show the uses of force at 214-653-3714 or protestreport@dallascounty.org. Creuzot said people being asked to come forward are not in trouble, though they should expect to be identified publicly if the incidents do result in criminal charges.

A press release from the District Attorney’s Office described the incidents under investigation, all of which occurred in downtown Dallas on May 30.

  • At approximately 4 p.m., near the Dallas Public Library: “…we believe a citizen was struck by a projectile fired by a Dallas Police Officer…. This individual suffered a very serious facial injury. The videos in our possession do not show the projectile being fired; however, you are able to hear it and see the projectile land on the ground near the citizen.”
  • At approximately 8:30 p.m., near the Commerce Street viaduct: “….a group of individuals were marching near the Commerce Street viaduct entrance ramp where it joins I-35 E North, when they were struck by pepperball projectiles fired by a Dallas Police Officer.”
  • At approximately 10:30 p.m., intersection of Pacific Ave. and Griffin St.: “…citizens were gathered at the intersection of Pacific Avenue and Griffin Street, across from the Homewood Suites Hotel and the KDFW Fox4 Parking Lot. At approximately 10:40 p.m., a citizen was struck in the face by a projectile fired by a Dallas Police Officer. This individual sustained serious injuries.”

Creuzot said the three cases may not be the only uses of force that are worthy of a criminal investigation.

“There may be other things that we don’t know about, so if anyone has any other incident where projectiles were used and somebody was hit and injured, we need to know about it.”

In an email, a police department spokesman said that, “the Dallas Police Department is currently conducting administrative and criminal investigations into some of our officers regarding alleged use of force complaints during the protest. This investigations are ongoing.”

Last month, Dallas Police Chief U. Reneé Hall said in a statement that she “welcomes and fully expected” Creuzot’s independent probe into the department's handling of the May and June protests against police brutality. She said the officer who allegedly fired pepper balls at an unarmed woman at close range, Sgt. Roger Rudloff, had been placed on restricted duty and that his actions were under investigation by the department's public integrity unit.

The Dallas Police Department’s conduct at the beginning of the summer of protests was criticized by activists and city council members. Hundreds of people were arrested on charges of rioting and obstructing highways, only to have the charges later dropped.

A Dallas Police Department report into its handling of the first four days of anti-police brutality protests contradicted public statements about the use of tear gas on protesters and pointed to glaring operational and communications failures.

The police department has since issued new restrictions on the use of “non-lethal” weapons like tear gas and pepper balls.

Chief Hall announced she will step down from as chief at the end of the year. Hall took over the department in 2017, the first woman to head the force.

Got a tip? Christopher Connelly is KERA's One Crisis Away Reporter, exploring life on the financial edge. Email Christopher at cconnelly@kera.org. You can follow Christopher on Twitter @hithisischris.

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Updated: October 29, 2020 at 3:19 PM CDT
This story was updated to include a Dallas Police Department statement on internal investigations into complaints of officers being violent during protests.