Lawsuit: Austin police officer injured 15-year-old girl with bean bag round

Ryan Autullo
Austin American-Statesman
A lawsuit accuses an Austin police officer of injuring a 15-year-old girl with a bean bag round that was fired from a shotgun.

A lawsuit accuses an Austin police officer of injuring a 15-year-old girl with a bean bag round that was fired from a shotgun while the officer was executing an arrest warrant for the girl's brother.

The lawsuit, filed Thursday in federal court in Austin, claims the officer's use of force was excessive and that the girl suffered serious injuries in the June 2021 incident. It did not elaborate on the nature of the injuries or whether she has recovered from them.

The girl's mother, Shivon Beltran, filed the lawsuit through her lawyer against both the city and the individual officer who shot her daughter, who is identified only as John Doe.

"The shooting was unreasonable, dangerous, and completely unjustified, as the young girl posed no threat or danger to anyone," attorney Jeff Edwards wrote in the lawsuit.

In a written statement, the city said: “We are aware the case was filed today. We follow our regular procedure for responses to litigation brought against the city."

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The allegations in the lawsuit aren't the first to raise questions about Austin police officers' use of bean bag rounds. The munitions were responsible for injuries to several people in attendance at Austin social justice protests in May 2020. According to a published medical report, 19 attendees were taken to a hospital and were treated for injuries. To date, 12 lawsuits have been filed against the city and individual officers, and the Austin City Council recently signaled its desire to settle some of the cases prior to trial.

The bean bag rounds are intended to be used to gain compliance when a person is ignoring orders by police. They are not to be fired beyond 75 feet into the distance and are not to be aimed at the head. Four protesters required surgery to extract a portion of a munition from their head or body.

The latest lawsuit does not specify the area of the body where the rounds struck the 15-year-old girl.

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According to the lawsuit, the incident happened when officers arrived at the girl's home to execute an arrest warrant for her brother.

Shivon Beltran, the mother, was the first to exit the home when officers arrived followed by her son, who was taken into custody without incident.

Officers then instructed the girl to exit. She walked backwards as instructed and turned around so she would not fall. The girl was then shot and fell injured to the ground, according to the lawsuit.

"Rather than help her as she lay wounded, upon information and belief, the shooter and other APD officers yelled at her to crawl back to them," the lawsuit stated.

The girl was then detained in handcuffs, the lawsuit stated.

The officer who shot the girl was not disciplined and police did not make the Travis County District Attorney's Office aware of the shooting, the lawsuit said.

The girl's mother is seeking monetary damages for medical expenses, physical pain and mental anguish, impairment and disfigurement.