The head of Dallas’ largest police union says the felony charges filed against two officers in connection with violence against protesters at demonstrations in May 2020 amount to a “political football” thrown by District Attorney John Creuzot days before early voting begins in Texas’ primary election.
On Wednesday, Senior Cpl. Ryan Mabry was charged with multiple felony counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. He is accused of shooting three people with so-called “less-lethal” ammunition on May 30, 2020, including protester Brandon Saenz, who lost an eye and seven teeth. Melvin Williams, a senior corporal at the time of the protests who was fired last month after video circulated showing him beating a man in Deep Ellum in a separate incident, was charged with multiple counts of felony aggravated assault.
In a press conference Thursday at the union’s headquarters, Dallas Police Association President Mike Mata said that while the officers may have at times behaved inappropriately—probable cause affidavits describe officers laughing about shooting a demonstrator with a non-lethal riot weapon—the charges announced Wednesday went overboard.
“I’m not saying no action should have been taken,” Mata said. “I’m saying the appropriate action should have been taken.”
He noted the police union has not decried the recent firing of three other Dallas police officers who have been charged with separate crimes in other cities.
He also said there were “hundreds if not thousands of people who were peacefully protesting,” and only some “individuals” throwing rocks and bottles at officers. (There is no evidence that the people these two officers are accused of attacking were throwing anything, but Mata said they refused to follow police orders to disperse.)
Those were the only somewhat conciliatory lines during a press conference in which Mata largely characterized the protests in the summer of 2020 as mob-driven riots, District Attorney Creuzot as a partisan hack trying to appease Democratic primary voters, and the officers charged with attacking protesters as peacekeepers trying to prevent chaos and property damage in the heart of the city.
He said that no demonstrators have been charged in connection with that summer’s protests. (The hundreds of people detained on the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge were not charged.)
“There will be another riot in downtown Dallas,” Mata said. “And because nobody was held accountable for those actions that happened over those three days, it will be worse than it was in the past.”
The Dallas Police Association has previously clashed with Creuzot over the DA’s reform policies. And the language at Thursday’s press conference is in keeping with what the union, a major (if not always successful) player in local elections, has maintained over its last several years of political activity: A well-funded, vocally supported police force is the most important part of keeping crime down in Dallas.
If Creuzot is, as Mata says, throwing a “political football,” then it’s on a field the Dallas Police Association knows well.