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APD Fires Officer Who Used Deadly Force Against Naked Unarmed Teen, CLEAT To Appeal

Nathan Bernier

The largest law enforcement union in Texas will appeal Austin Police's firing of Officer Geoffrey Freeman, the union said Monday afternoon in a statement. Austin Chief of Police Art Acevedo confirmed that the department has indefinitely suspended, or fired, Freeman, a ten-year department veteran, over his use of deadly force against a naked unarmed teenager, David Joseph, in February in North Austin. 

Acevedo said in a press briefing Monday afternoon that he thinks the department can withstand the union's appeal. The chain of command unanimously decided to indefinitely suspend Officer Freeman after the department concluded a 30-day investigation, Acevedo said.

"Austin Police Department takes the use of force, deadly force, very seriously. We have to hold our office to the highest standards," Chief Acevedo said. 

According to Acevedo, the Citizens Review Panel commended the department for its investigation into the incident. Meanwhile the statewide officers union, the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas (CLEAT), called the firing "unjust and politically motivated."

“Rather than taking the time needed to conduct a thorough and impartial investigation into the tragic events of Feb. 8, 2016, Chief Acevedo instead chose to send signals to the news media, political activists, rank-and-file police officers and even a cadet class that he intended to fire Officer Freeman no matter what the facts in the case might show,” said CLEAT President Todd Harrison, an Austin police sergeant.

Acevedo said the investigation was thorough and timely, and that, "once all the information is released, it's not that complex" to see Officer Freeman acted out of accordance with department policy. His violations included improper response to resistance and lack of objective reasonableness, according to APD.

"We do not believe his use of deadly force was justified in this case," Acevedo said. "We don't believe they were consistent of the standards, the training of the Austin Police Department."

On Feb. 8, Freeman, who is African-American, was called to a neighborhood in North Austin upon reports of a black male, possibly naked, acting erratically. The subject, David Joseph, reportedly "charged" at the officer, who then discharged his weapon, fatally shooting the teen. The start of the incident was captured by Freeman's dashboard cam, but the "charging" and the shooting took place out of frame.

Acevedo said that despite the officer's actions, he was urging the public not to demonize anyone. He said that Freeman had, other than this incident, served honorably.

Freeman’s suspension is pending an appeal and the outcome of independent arbitration. The Travis County District Attorney’s Office is still weighing potential criminal charges and intends to present the case to a grand jury.

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