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APD Chief Delays Disciplinary Action Against Officer

Local civil rights activists want Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo to fire Nathan Wagner, an APD officer who shot and killed 20-year old Byron Carter, Jr. May 2011. Carter was a passenger in a car that struck and injured a police officer. The teen driver was shot in the arm but survived.

Chief Acevedo has 180-days from the incident to make a decision. That deadline is Saturday. Acevedo today notified the State Attorney General that he is delaying a disciplinary decision until a criminal investigation into Wagner’s actions is completed.

In a press release, Acevedo said the delay was intended to protect “the ongoing criminal investigation and the integrity of the criminal justice process."

During the week of November 14, 2011, it became apparent to me that the criminal review of this matter by the Travis County District Attorney’s office and the Travis County Grand Jury would not be completed prior to the 180 calendar day limit afforded to me by state statute for the imposition of discipline in this matter. It is my belief that a final determination of disciplinary action concerning Officer Wagner at this time would substantially affect the integrity of the pending criminal investigation

During a press conference at APD headquarters, Texas Civil Rights Project director Jim Harrington accused the APD Chief of using the Grand Jury to protect Officer Wagner. He and other civil rights activists called for both officers involved, Wagner and Jeffery Rodriguez, to be fired. Harrington said the Grand Jury’s investigation should be irrelevant to Acevedo’s decision to discipline.

“Firing [means] that you have used the wrong procedures,” Harrington said. “The grand jury [determines] whether you have committed a crime – two different things. ”

A grand jury last year declined to indict the teen driver accused of aiming the car at the officers and driving into one of them. The family of Byron Carter, Jr. has a federal lawsuit against the City of Austin.

Austin civil rights activist Debbie Russell said this was an unjustified used of lethal force.  

“It should be noted that the police chief has fired many officers on this force, but he has not done so for excessive use of force or for racial profiling or for any of the larger issues that have been our concern,” she said.

Harrington said today that Acevedo has a duty to send a message to the police officers that excessive use of force will not be tolerated in Austin.

Just days before this shooting in May 2011, the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division informed the City of Austin it was closing its four-year investigation into the Austin Police Department. The DOJ said it could not find evidence that there was a practice or pattern of the department violating the Constitution and federal law. 

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