(AUSTIN, Texas) — Two Texas police officers fired over deploying a stun gun on a man while he was on his knees and with his hands in the air have appealed to get their jobs back, sparking outrage from community activists.
Criminal justice advocates are trying to keep former Austin police officers Robert Pfaff and Donald Petraitis off the force by making public a body camera video of the 2018 incident.
Pfaff and Petraitis were fired from the Austin Police Department last March after they were charged with criminal assault, official oppression and tampering with government records stemming from the use of a stun gun on 30-year-old Quentin Perkins.
Both officers appealed to the local Civil Service Commission to be reinstated to the police force after a Travis County jury acquitted them of the charges earlier this year. An independent arbitrator is expected to render a decision soon.
At the end of the officers’ trial, a judge ordered the body-camera video sealed.
But Chris Harris, a local community activist and a member of the Austin Public Safety Commission, obtained the body camera video through the Freedom of Information Act and shared it with news media outlets, saying he hopes the footage will spark community support to block the officers from getting their badges back.
Harris told ABC News on Wednesday that he received the video on Friday and that he is working with the activist group Austin Justice Coalition to show it to as many community residents as they can.
“It’s shocking and heartbreaking to see somebody get tased when they’re on their knees with their hands in the air and they’re not doing anything different from anybody else,” Harris said. “It confirms all the worst fears that so many of us have about police and why we shouldn’t trust them.”
Neither Pfaff nor Petraitis could be reached for comment. Both officers had pleaded not guilty to the charges they were acquitted of.
Perkins, who reached a $75,000 settlement with the city after filing a federal lawsuit, and his attorney did not respond to a request for comment from ABC News.
Following the acquittals of Pfaff and Petraitis, Perkins expressed disappointment with the jury’s decision.
“The video clearly shows that I had my hands up, did everything I was supposed to do,” he said at the time. “I complied and at the end of the day, justice was not served.”
Ken Casaday, president of the Austin Police Association, said in a statement to ABC Austin affiliate station KVUE-TV that “Austin Justice Coalition is wasting their time because an arbitrator will rule on this, not the city.”
The body camera video was played for the jury at the officers’ trial and shows Pfaff, Petraitis and other officers responding to a shooting in a parking lot in Austin on Feb. 16, 2018, and rounding up Perkins and up to 10 other individuals who were in the area.
The police ordered people to get on the ground with their hands up, according to the body camera footage. Perkins appeared to comply with the orders, getting on his knees and holding up his hands before Pfaff shot him with the stun gun, according to the video.
“Hands out to your side! Roll on your side! Roll on your stomach!” officers are heard in the video yelling at Perkins, who appeared to be writhing on the ground in pain.
“Turn over on your stomach or you’re going to get it again,” an officer is heard telling Perkins, according to the video.
Perkins was arrested on suspicion of failure to comply with a lawful order.
Following an internal investigation, Austin Police Chief Brian Manley fired the officers after finding the statements and reports they made about the incident did not match what was on the body camera video.
In an affidavit released by Manley, Pfaff wrote that “Perkins refused to comply and moved toward the darkened area of the parking lot where Waller Creek is located. Officer Petraitis and I continued to give Perkins commands but he refused to comply.
Pfaff continued in the affidavit, “Perkins refused to comply and looked back towards the creek as if to escape. Due to the nature of the call, the number of subjects versus Officers, the darkened area of the incident I felt it was immediately necessary to deploy my taser in order to detain Perkins and safely frisk for weapons.”
Chief Manley said he found that both officers made false statements about the incident to their supervisor and in their reports, and violated the department’s rules for deploying a stun gun.
“The use of the Taser was inappropriate, unnecessary and objectively unreasonable, and a violation of Department policy,” Manley wrote in a March 18, 2019 memorandum to the director of the Municipal Civil Service Commission.
“If an officer demonstrates that he cannot or will not give truthful accounts of the force that they used, I as Chief of police would be remiss in my duties and responsibilities if I allowed such an Officer to be bestowed the power to continue to have the duties and responsibilities that are designed to protect and serve the public,” Manley wrote.
Harris and Chas Moore of the Austin Justice Coalition told ABC News they won’t stop fighting to keep Pfaff and Petratis from being reinstated.
“We know the trial is over. We can’t do anything about that,” Moore said. “But, Chief Manley did make the right call in this regard months ago and I hope the appeals process holds up to where we don’t have these types of officers on the police force.”
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