Austin, TX — On February 16, 2018, Quentin Perkins had committed no crime, had harmed no one, and was merely sitting in a park when police officers ran up on him and began barking orders. Not wanting to get shot or beaten, Perkins complied with everything police told him to do. He got on his knees and put his hands on his head.
Despite complying and presenting no threat whatsoever, Perkins was sadistically tasered in the back and assaulted. The two officers responsible were both fired and charged with multiple crimes for the tasering and for covering it up. However, because so many people are blinded by the badge, those two officers were acquitted and the taxpayers were held liable instead.
The facts of the case are indisputable. Austin police officer Robert Pfaff tasered Quentin Perkins in the back as Perkins was on his knees with his hands on his head. After tasering the innocent compliant man, both Pfaff and Donald Petraitis, another former officer, falsely claimed in their reports that Perkins was attempting to flee so they had no other choice.
The evidence was so clear that a cover up and official oppression had taken place that Austin public safety commissioner Chris Harris and Police Chief Brian Manley both pointed it out. The officers were subsequently charged with tampering with physical evidence and official oppression.
Despite the facts of the case, a jury acquitted both officers. However, knowing that these officers assaulted an innocent man and conspired to cover it up, Chief Manley did the right thing and fired both of them, despite their acquittal.
“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.”
In the footage, which is captured by a third officer’s body camera, we see Pfaff and Petraitis encircle a group of men who were standing around another man who had just been shot. Not being involved in the incident, Perkins started walking away until the officers yelled at him to get down. He then got down on his knees and put his hands on his head.
It was at this point that Pfaff shot him in the back with his taser and began yelling at him to comply as he writhed in agony 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,” Harris said.
In their disciplinary records, Manley stated that he fired the officers because their official stories of what happened were “simply not true.”
Despite the chief’s statements, the police union was quick to defend the cops and claimed their actions were entirely justified.
“The officers were exonerated through the court system,” Ken Casaday, Austin police union president, said. “The jury has seen the video and had no problems with it being criminal in nature. We hope the arbitrator sees the same on policy and procedure.”
After the trial, the case was swept under the rug and deliberately kept out of public view despite Perkins successfully settling a suit against the city for $75,000.
As the Statesmen reports:
After the trial, District Judge Karen Sage sealed the video from the public. The expunction order Sage signed is standard for any defendant who is acquitted of a crime and orders the destruction of documents that otherwise would be accessible to the public. It also enables Petraitis and Pfaff to legally deny they had been charged with a crime for the incident involving Perkins.
The video was only just released this week after commissioner Harris filed a request to unseal it. It speaks for itself. There were multiple men on their knees complying with cops, but they chose to taser the man with dark skin leading to some in the community to claim the officers were racist.
“Hopefully this footage will add to the growing body of evidence that we continue to have a real problem with racist policing in Austin,” Chas Moore, executive director of the Austin Justice Coalition, said, claiming police singled out Perkins because he was the only black person on the scene. “Despite all of the gains we’ve made in reforming Austin police, we keep being confronted with the fact that this institution has racism at its core and so we need to not only continue working to change the police department, we have to keep working to adopt approaches to public safety that don’t involve the police.”
Adding insult to official oppression is the fact that both officers have since appealed their firings and will likely be reinstated. Even if they aren’t hired back on with the APD, they have not lost their licenses and will become gypsy cops and get hired on at another department where they will likely strike again.