Here we go again. How is a slight, unarmed teenager with what would seem to be an obvious mental condition a danger to a Police Officer?
12:45 p.m. update: Austin police identified the person shot and killed by an officer on Monday in Northeast Austin as David Joseph, 17.
Police also identified the officer involved in the shooting as Geoffrey Freeman, a veteran officer who joined the force in 2005.
“All of our officer-involved shootings are tragedies,” Austin police Chief of Staff Brian Manley said.
Concurrent investigations are underway, Manley said, including a criminal investigation being conducted by the Special Investigations Unit and the district attorney’s office.
Manley confirmed that Joseph was unarmed when he was shot Monday morning.
Police had responded to a call in the 300 block of Yager Lane that a man was chasing someone through an apartment complex, Manley said. Officer Freeman had been talking to witnesses when he responded to a call nearby in the 12000 block of Natures Bend, he said. There, Freeman encountered Joseph and within seconds of the confrontation, he opened fire, Manley said.
Freeman provided an initial statement at the scene but is expected to provide a more lengthy statement for investigators later this week, Manley said.
Manley declined to talk about whether the victim had any previous police record or a history of mental illnesss.
“Now is not the day,” he said.
Earlier: A man fatally shot Monday by an Austin police sergeant was not armed at the time of the incident, three sources told the American-Statesman and KVUE-TV today.
Officials had said at the scene that they did not know whether the man, who was naked at the time, had a weapon when he was shot in North Austin.
However, the sources, who were not authorized to speak because of the ongoing investigation, said investigators have since confirmed the unidentified man did not have a weapon.
The revelation intensified questions about the officer’s decision to shoot. Austin police have called a noon news conference at Austin police headquarters to discuss the shooting.
The sources said a key issue in the case likely will be the distance between the officer and the man and whether or not the officer can demonstrate that he was in immediate danger.
Most officers in the department also carry stun guns.
The shooting happened about 10:30 a.m. Monday in the 12000 block of Natures Bend in a small neighborhood south of Tech Ridge Boulevard near Yager Lane. Several residents had called police and said that a man was running around the neighborhood and acting erratically.
Both the suspect and officer in the incident are black. Nelson Linder, president of the Austin NAACP, said the incident highlights the need for police to review how they handle similar situations in the future.
“Once again it is very clear that this policy of response to resistance is not being enforced,” Linder said. “They need to rethink this whole approach, especially if there might be mental illness issues.”
Meanwhile, Jim Harrington, the longtime director and founder of the Texas Civil Rights Project who is retiring, condemned the incident in a statement Tuesday.
“It is almost incomprehensible that a young naked man would be considered dangerous such that a police officer would kill him,” he said. The social advocacy group has called for “a full, fair, and open investigation” of the shooting.
“This is the pattern that led to the U.S. Department of Justice investigation a few years back, and it appears that the pattern of police shootings continues,” Harrington said. “We intend to pursue this matter with the Department of Justice once more.”