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City pays $2.25 million to family of man killed by police in 2017

Friday, September 3, 2021 by Audrey McGlinchy, KUT

In the conclusion of a lawsuit against the Austin police officer who shot and killed a 20-year-old Hispanic man in 2017, Austin City Council Thursday approved $2.25 million to be paid as a settlement to the man’s family.

“There’s no good way to do these, but I appreciate that we have reached a settlement today,” Council Member Greg Casar said before the vote.

On May 20, 2017, Jason Roque’s mother called 911 after her son threatened to kill himself. When police arrived at the house, Roque was holding a BB gun on the family’s front lawn. After putting the gun to his head, Roque moved slightly, and Officer James Harvel shot him, according to the lawyer for Roque’s family. As Roque stumbled to the ground, the officer shot him twice more, killing him.

“Obtaining a settlement is an imperfect solution to anyone who’s truly suffered a loss like this,” Jeff Edwards, the lawyer for Roque’s family, said. “But this is a significant enough settlement that they can look themselves in the mirror and say they honored their son and they stood up for him.”

Margaret Moore, the Travis County district attorney at the time, declined to pursue criminal charges against Harvel.

Months after the shooting, the family sued the city of Austin and then later the officer. While courts threw out the lawsuit against the city, they upheld the lawsuit against the officer. After a ruling from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the city decided to settle the case.

“City Council considers several factors in determining whether to resolve litigation arising out of officer-involved shootings, and each case is considered based on the unique set of circumstances involved with each incident,” the city said in a statement. “In this case, Council determined that a resolution of this lawsuit is in the best interest of the city and hopes that the resolution of this case will allow the family and the involved city personnel to move forward.”

The vote to allocate the money was 10-1, with Council Member Mackenzie Kelly voting against.

“I voted against the settlement because the officer was cleared of any wrongdoing,” Kelly told KUT by text message.

This story was produced as part of the Austin Monitor’s reporting partnership with KUT.

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