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Video shows Austin officer punching suspect who had knife

This video of an arrest in downtown Austin has gone viral on Twitter, with many people questioning the use of force the clip seems to depict. APD Chief Manley has responded. (Photo/video courtesy: Patrick King)

Viral video showing the arrest of a man on 4th Street in Downtown Austin early Wednesday is sparking outrage, and claims of police brutality. Meantime, the Austin Police Association says the officers did nothing wrong, and that one of the officers is now receiving death threats.

In the early morning hours of the Fourth of July, Austin police officers Hale and Alas arrested 23-year-old Justin Grant in front of the bar, Rain, on 4th Street. "That was one thing that was picked up by a bystander's camera. That situation happens multiple times in downtown pretty much every day," said Austin Police Association President Ken Casaday. He is unapologetic about what happened.

"I feel very confident that these officers not only did the right thing, but they should be commended for what they did," he said.

Grant is facing charges for possession of methamphetamine, terroristic threat and resisting arrest. The arrest affidavit says Grant had a six-inch-long knife and demanded to be let into Rain. When he was refused, the affidavit says he grabbed one bar employee and said "something bad" would happen if he wasn't let in, and gestured toward the knife. That's when Rain staff called 911.

Chief Brian Manley addressed the video Thursday evening.

He says a witness told detectives Grant reached for his knife as officers approached him to question him about the 911 call.

The officers tried handcuffing him because he was acting aggressive.

While they were struggling on the ground, the officers in the video said Grant again tried reaching for his knife.

"They had an individual who was armed with a deadly weapon, who they reported was reaching for that weapon, trying to gain control of it, and as the officer was deploying his taser, this subject grabbed a hold of that taser. So, all of that feeds into the officers' decisions on why they used the level of force," Manley said.

The video of what happened after officers arrived has drawn outrage and shock online. "We see these officers that have a guy on the ground. They're being really, really aggressive with him," said Peter Nicholas, who witnessed the arrest. He is the man in the white shorts walking up in the background about halfway through the video. "I felt shocked. I felt scared," he said of those moments. Even after learning what led up to the arrest, Nicholas feels officers went too far.

"They could have de-escalated things, but instead they ratcheted up the whole situation," he said.

Manley tweeted that the chain of command is reviewing the arrest but Casaday maintains, the officers did nothing wrong. "These officers should be commended and honored, not vilified," he said.

The woman in the video who was reaching out during the arrest was also arrested, and Nicholas felt she too was arrested with too much force.

Manley says he hopes people understand this video does not show the lead-up to the officers hitting Grant.

"I think it's important we focus on the whole story. There's a lot that happened prior to the part that's been displayed in public right now. We need to make sure when we're making a judgment on these, we take all of this into account," Manley said.

The Austin Police Association says the officers remain on duty.

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