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Three new lawsuits allege excessive force amid 2020 police protests in Austin

The lawsuits come after at least 19 officers were recently indicted and the City of Austin announced a number of settlements for others injured.

AUSTIN, Texas — On Monday, Jeff Edwards Law filed three more lawsuits alleging excessive use of force amid the 2020 police protests in Downtown Austin.

In one suit, complainant Alyssa Sanders alleges she suffered a skull fracture and traumatic brain injury when an officer shot her in the head with a less-lethal round on May 31.

She claims she was running for safety as officers pushed through the crowds near Cesar Chavez and Guadalupe streets while they were deploying pepper spray and firing beanbag rounds. She claims Officer Eric Heim, who is among the officers recently indicted, shot her in the head.

"Alyssa was doing absolutely nothing wrong," the lawsuit states. "Alyssa was doing absolutely nothing remotely threatening to any protester or officer around her."

The suit claims she suffered multiple brain bleeds, in addition to a fractured skull.

For their part, city officials have responded to the newly filed petition saying they're already looking into the language of that lawsuit.

“As with all of the claims and lawsuits the City has received related to the May 2020 protests, we will handle this one respectfully and fairly," the statement said.

The statement didn't make clear how, or if, the city intends to work with the petitioners or the officers named in the suit.

"Each case is different, and we will review the facts and circumstances and advise our clients as appropriate,” the statement concluded.

The lawsuit's second petitioner, Taylor Ellis, claims he was among the protestors who overtook Interstate 35 near Austin police headquarters on May 31. The suit states he was walking with his hands in the air near the median of the southbound lane when he was shot.

"Video evidence shows that Ellis was doing absolutely nothing remotely threatening to any protester or officer around him," the suit states.

The suit alleges that Officers Todd Gilbertson and Officer Michael Crossen fired at Ellis. The suit claims he was struck twice, once in the left shoulder and once in the left hip, after which he immediately fell to the ground.

It also claims that no officer came to his aid after other protestors surrounded him to help.

The third suit states that Cesar Fuentez was also on I-35, but on May 30, when he was struck as officers were trying to move them off the highway. As they did so, he claims he was running away from officers as they fired into the crowd.

"Cesar was terrified as officers fired without reason into the crowd," the suit states. "Moments after Cesar jumped over the highway barrier toward the access road, APD Officer John Doe shot Cesar with a less lethal shotgun, penetrating his arm."

It also claims that video evidence proves Fuentez was unarmed and was not doing anything "remotely threatening" as he was running away and was shot.

After he was shot, he claims he fell to the ground. The impact of the shot tore a hole in his skin, breaking apart upon impact and embedding into his muscle, the lawsuit states. It also claims he has long-term injuries that he will continue to suffer from. The round was reportedly removed by doctors at Dell Seton hours after the incident.

Earlier this year, at least 19 officers were indicted for their use of force amid the protests. The City of Austin has also announced multiple settlements in three similar cases involving the following protestors:

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