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Delay in briefing of Council members on APD shooting raises questions

Wednesday, July 31, 2013 by Michael Kanin

In Fact Daily has learned that city management did not brief most Austin City Council members about Friday’s shooting by an Austin Police officer of Larry Eugene Jackson Jr. until Monday. 

 

City Manager Marc Ott left on vacation Sunday and remains out of town through August 1. With Ott gone, Deputy City Manager Mike McDonald is in charge.

 

McDonald acknowledged a breakdown in communications. “In situations such as this, maintaining the public safety is always our main concern,” he said in an emailed statement Tuesday afternoon. “The City Manager and I were at the scene Friday and messages were left Friday for the Mayor and the Mayor Pro Tem, because the Mayor was out of town. Usually, there is a protocol for making sure other Council members are notified timely. It did not work in this instance, and I take full responsibility.”

 

July is typically a slow month at city hall. In addition to Mayor Lee Leffingwell and Mayor Pro Tem Cole, Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo was also out of town at the time of the shooting. Acevedo is in California with his mother, who is terminally ill.

 

Council Member Mike Martinez told In Fact Daily Tuesday that he had to call Ott before he received an update on the situation. “I never received a briefing from staff until last night at 7pm,” he said. “Everything I heard was through media sources. I sent the City Manager a message yesterday (Monday) afternoon asking when we could expect a briefing, and I subsequently received a phone call from Chief McDonald. That was the first briefing – at 7:20 pm last night on this incident.”

 

Martinez added that the situation raises significant concerns “about our internal process.” He added that “an incident of this magnitude should have been handled a lot better than it was in terms of communicating.”

 

He also noted that he had worries about the larger picture. “Any time deadly force is used it’s a tragedy,” he said. “I feel badly for the family, friends, and children of Mr. Jackson. I share a lot of the concerns that I am hearing from the community members as this information is unfolding.”

 

Council offices received an update on the situation from city Communications Director Doug Matthews via email at 9:40pm Monday. In it, Matthews offered a run down of the situation.

 

Jackson was shot after a run-in with Austin Police Detective Charles Kleinert. Media reports have thus far suggested that Kleinert confronted Jackson after Jackson tried to enter a bank that had been recently robbed and was closed for business. Jackson fled on foot.

 

According to multiple reports, Jackson had an earlier charge of forgery. Austin police officials suggest that Jackson was trying to commit fraud when he attempted to enter the bank.

 

Matthews’ email confirms this, adding that a bank employee may have touched off Kleinert’s suspicions. “Mr. Jackson returns to the front doors at 4:05 and again attempts to open them. This time a bank employee came to the door, unlocked it, and went outside to speak with Mr. Jackson,” Matthews wrote. “According to this bank employee, Mr. Jackson provided a fictitious identification. The bank employee went back inside the bank and notified Det. Kleinert of her suspicions.”

 

Several news outlets reported that Kleinert pursued Jackson as the passenger in a private vehicle for at least part of the chase. The Statesman also reported that Kleinert did not call for backup. 

 

Matthews email also confirms the chase via private vehicle. “Regardless of the reason for the foot pursuit, the response to resistance will be investigated for compliance with state law and departmental policy,” he wrote.

 

The shooting – Matthews wrote, “to the back of neck” – is also under investigation. Media reports say Jackson was not armed. Matthews writes that the Special Investigations Unit and the Travis County District Attorney’s office will conduct a criminal investigation and that APD’s Internal Affairs division will conduct an administrative one.

 

Local NAACP Chapter President Nelson Linder told In Fact Daily that Council members should not wait for a call from management about a situation such as the one that unfolded Friday. “As a Council member, they should be calling and demanding a briefing,” he said.

 

Linder reiterated his concerns about the shooting. “I think (this) is systemic. The fact that the DA’s office doesn’t indict officers, Acevedo’s office doesn’t fire officers – we don’t really address use of force and disparities on race in the city.”

 

However, he stopped short of calling for a federal investigation. “I think the feds can also be a problem,” he noted. “I think it’s up to us locally. I think the local government has to set a standard: If they do it, the feds are going to follow. But at this point, everybody’s got their hands up; nobody wants to take responsibility.”

 

He continued: “The City Council has to get involved (and) demand a higher standard, and hold these guys accountable. If they do that, they are going to force the City Manager and Acevedo to make some tough choices.”

 

Ott is set for a performance review as part of Council’s August 8 executive session agenda.

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