A grand jury decided not to indict several officers who shot a 21-year-old Louisiana man in an alley outside a Sixth Street club in downtown Austin in 2018, announced Travis County District Attorney’s Office Friday.
Before being shot, Aquantis “Ajay” Griffin raised a gun at the police and ignored all orders to drop the gun, the prosecutor’s office said in a statement. Police shot Griffin 30 times, according to his family’s lawyers.
“The district attorney’s office takes the job of presenting all facts and evidence to a grand jury very seriously,” Travis County District Attorney José Garza said. “In this case, an independent group of Travis County community members heard the evidence and the law and decided that the conduct of the officers was not illegal.”
Griffin’s family called the shooting a “hail of needlessly excessive gunfire” in a lawsuit against the city of Austin and eight of nine officers involved.
“As soon as they fired, he immediately fell and the gun slipped across the street,” said Scott Hendler, the family’s lawyer. “And yet they fired 42 more times, hitting him at least 25 more times, and it was the conduct that clearly violated his civil rights.”
Hendler also disagreed with the DA’s claim that Griffin ignored police orders.
“He hasn’t had a chance to ignore them,” Hendler said. “He did not have the opportunity to answer them.
U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel dismissed the case against the officers, but not against the city. Hendler intends to file a motion for reconsideration.
The Austin police officers involved are Joseph Cast, Justin Halbach, Joseph Moran, Lewis Holland, Wesley Devries, Alberto Martinez, Daniel Mathis, Christopher Salacki and Stephen Johnson.
A year after Griffin’s death, Cast was present during the fatal shooting of Mauris DeSilva, 46, in July 2019 at Spring condominiums in downtown Austin. He had used a stun gun on DeSilva before two other officers shot him.
Griffin had traveled to Austin from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to attend a show on Sixth Street from his childhood friend, his lawyers said.
In the wee hours of August 17, 2018, two groups clashed behind the Terminal 6 nightclub in the 300 block of East Sixth Street. The confrontation escalated and one person started shooting with a weapon.
Police who had been dispatched to the scene saw Griffin running away with a gun, so they started chasing him down the alley, ordering him to drop the gun, the prosecutor’s office said.
Other officers at the end of the alley heard the gunshots and drew their guns when they saw Griffin approaching them with a gun in his hand, according to the prosecutor’s office.
Griffin ran towards the officers and a crowd of civilians, then turned a corner and raised his gun at the police, prompting the police to shoot him, the prosecutor’s office said.
According to video of the scene, several people in the area were ignoring the officers’ shouted orders, which were confusing and overlapping, said Hendler.
The video shows Griffin’s hand swinging in an arc with his body, “a natural body movement during a sharp turn while running,” the civil suit says.