The Austin Texas Police Department has recently released body camera footage of an incident that occurred in 2018.
During the encounter, a former Austin police officer used his stun gun on a man who was on his knees with his hands in the air. The officers involved in the incident were both criminally charged and fired.
The recently released video shows former Austin Police Officer Robert Pfaff shooting Quentin Perkins with his stun gun. Perkins is seen in the video kneeling with his hands up when he is tased.
Perkins later sued the city and was awarded a settlement of $75,000. The suit, which was filed against Robert Pfaff, Donald Petraitis (the other officer at the scene) and the city of Austin, alleged that the officers discriminated against Perkins, who is black, because of his race.
After the incident, both officers involved wrote in their reports that it appeared Perkins was attempting to flee. Police Chief Brian Manley said the body camera footage disputed that account.
The two officers were charged with multiple crimes, including tampering with physical evidence and official oppression.
After a jury found Pfaff and Petraitis not guilty of abusing their positions, assault and tampering with evidence, a judge sealed the video. That’s when criminal justice activist Chris Harris got involved.
“At that point, Quentin Perkins’ lawyer came out and said that he thought that the video should see the light of day, and so at that point, I really wanted to make sure that that happened,” Harris said.
Harris says he pushed for months, finally getting the video from APD.
The video of the incident shows Perkins walking away from a group of people who were huddled near a man who had been shot.
Perkins appears to comply with the officers’ orders to come back to the scene and then drops to his knees. It appears that Pfaff used his stun gun on Perkins after he did not comply with instructions to lie on the ground.
“It seems so clear that the chief was justified in firing these officers, particularly considering that their written reports don’t match up with the video,” says Chris Harris, public safety commissioner who released the video.
The incident reports filed by both Pfaff and Petraitis stated that Perkins attempted to walk away and seemed like he was going to make a run for it just before Pfaff used his stun gun on him.
In his disciplinary memos, Chief Manley explained his reasons terminating the officers saying parts of their reports were “simply not true.”
“I find it improbable that both officers came up with a similar version of events, which included things that did not happen … as well as not recalling what actually did happen,” Manley wrote. “I have serious concerns that Officer Pfaff and Petraitis got their stories straight before they spoke with (a supervisor) and prepared their reports and the probable cause affidavit.”
The discrepancies in the officers’ reports led to them being charged with tampering with physical evidence, tampering with government records, assault, official oppression and abuse of official capacity for both officers. Pfaff was also charged with perjury. Jurors returned a not guilty verdict on all charges in December.
Both officers are appealing their terminations.