AUSTIN – The Austin Police Department has released the body-cam footage at the center of a case involving two fired APD officers who are trying to get their jobs back.
A jury found former officers Robert Pfaff and Donald Petraitis not guilty of excessive force, but Austin Police Chief Brian Manley fired them, saying they lied in their report.
Pfaff and Petraitis can be seen in the body camera footage. They were responding to a shooting where they found a large group of potential witnesses and told them to all get on the ground. In the video, Quentin Perkins can clearly be seen on his knees with his hands up, like everyone else. The video shows him in that position for several seconds before Pfaff is seen using a stun gun on him.
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.
In a city memo, Chief Manley said before the officers knew there was body camera footage of what happened, they both lied. The memo reports the officers said Perkins, who could have been a shooting suspect, was on his feet with his hands down, trying to move away from them. The video shows that wasn’t the case.
“For officers that not only would be willing to use that sort of unnecessary force on folks, but then willing to concoct a story to cover it up, we don’t need those types of folks patrolling our streets,” Harris said.
Both officers appealed Manley’s decision to fire them and had a hearing in November. The appeal is still in arbitration.
“I hope that everyone can see that it was the right decision, and that the arbitrator will see it was the right decision, and that they won’t be allowed back on the force,” Harris said.
In a statement, the Combined Law Enforcemement Associations of Texas, or CLEAT’s Public Affairs Coordinator Jennifer Szimanski defended the former officers, saying:
“In December of 2018, Austin Police Officers, Robert Pfaff and Donald Petraitis, stood trial after being charged with Abuse of Official Capacity, Official Oppression, Assault Causing Bodily Injury, Tampering/Fabricating Physical Evidence, and Tampering with Government Record in connection to their response to a shooting in downtown Austin. A Travis County jury found both officers not guilty on all charges, however, the Austin Police Department did not reinstate the officers. CLEAT believes both officers should be reinstated as soon as possible and our attorneys worked diligently to represent the officers and present the evidence to the arbitrator.”
Perkins dropped a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city when council members approved a settlement of $75,000.