Officer Suspended for Excessive Use of Force

Officer Christopher Gray gets 70-day suspension for excessive use of force and acts bringing discredit to APD for his role in September arrest

Christopher Gray
Christopher Gray

In a disciplinary letter dated April 25, Austin Police Chief Stan Knee handed Officer Christopher Gray a 70-day suspension for excessive use of force and acts bringing discredit to the APD for his role in the September arrest of 25-year-old Ramon Hernandez. Gray was one of three officers indicted for official oppression for their handling of Hernandez's arrest on Sept. 19, after Hernandez fled from the scene of a minor traffic accident. An APD in-car camera recorded a portion of the arrest; the video depicts Gray, along with Officers William Heilman and Joel Follmer, pinning a handcuffed and sometimes-squirming Hernandez face-down on the ground, while Gray intermittently delivers a total of 14 blows to Hernandez's lower back/kidney area.

A Travis Co. grand jury in December indicted the three officers on the Class A official oppression charge (which carries the possibility of up to a year in state prison and/or up to a $4,000 fine). Gray and Heilman were tried and acquitted of the charge last month; Follmer's trial is scheduled to begin this month. Nonetheless, based on the results of an Internal Affairs investigation, Knee last week handed Gray a 70-day suspension for using excessive force. "Independent witnesses and another officer on the scene considered the amount of force used by Officer Gray to be excessive," Knee wrote in a four-page suspension letter filed with the Civil Service Commission. "After reviewing the evidence, I have determined that the amount of force used by Officer Gray was excessive, and his actions have brought discredit upon himself and the [APD]." Specifically, Knee found that Gray violated the department's general rules on use-of-force, mandating that an officer "shall only use the minimum level of force that is reasonably necessary to bring an incident under control."

Knee was apparently swayed by Gray's untarnished record on the force, his record as a "well-respected" Field Training Officer (responsible for mentoring rookies on patrol), and his demeanor and candor during the Disciplinary Review Board hearing, in determining that Gray should not face an "indefinite suspension" – the Civil Service equivalent of termination. "Gray acknowledged that he could have and should have handled the situation differently, and would do so when confronted with a similar situation in the future," Knee wrote. "Finally, Officer Gray's chain of command spoke well of him, and those opinions weighed heavily in my decision to impose this agreed suspension." Indeed, an officer must agree to any suspension over 15 days – and must agree to waive the right to appeal the disciplinary decision to civil service commissioners or to an independent arbitrator. The suspension also requires Gray to "confer" with the APD's staff psychologist, to "successfully complete" any recommended course of counseling, and to complete additional use-of-force training prescribed by his chain of command; Gray's suspension will end July 5.

Got something to say? The Chronicle welcomes opinion pieces on any topic from the community. Submit yours now at

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More APD
APD Racial Bias Controversy Now Includes Lawsuit
APD Racial Bias Controversy Now Includes Lawsuit
Suit alleges “a pattern and practice of discriminating against African Americans”

Austin Sanders, Nov. 29, 2019

APD's Lone Female Assistant Chief Retires
APD's Lone Female Assistant Chief Retires
Jessica Robledo was the only woman at the executive level during her tenure

Chase Hoffberger, Sept. 2, 2016

More by Jordan Smith
'Chrome Underground' Goes Classic Car Hunting
'Chrome Underground' Goes Classic Car Hunting
Motoreum's Yusuf & Antonio talk about the biz and their reality TV debut

May 22, 2014

APD Brass Shifts Up, Down, Across
APD Brass Shifts Up, Down, Across
Musical chairs at Downtown HQ

May 9, 2014


Christopher Gray, excessive use of force, William Heilman, Joel Follmer, Austin Police Department, APD, Stan Knee, Civil Service Commission, CSC, use of force, Disciplinary Review Board, Ramon Hernandez, DRB, excessive force, official oppression, Internal Affairs, IA

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Behind the scenes at The Austin Chronicle

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle