Families Reiterate Calls For Police Transparency And Arrests After Killings
Families and victims advocates are calling for the firing and arrest of Austin police officers involved in the January killing of Alex Gonzales Jr. and the arrest of a man who fatally shot Garrett Foster last year.
The renewed calls come as Travis County District Attorney José Garza's office ramps up investigations into police killings and as the Austin Police Department faces demands to move away from a "warrior mentality" within its training.
At an event Monday at the spot where Gonzales was killed, his mother, Elizabeth, appealed to the Austin Police Department to fire the officers responsible and to address inequities in policing of Black and Brown people.
Gonzales was fatally shot by two officers on Jan. 5 after he allegedly cut off an off-duty police officer near Wickersham and Oltorf in South Austin. Both officers have been put on administrative leave, and the department is investigating.
"They're going to pay [for] what they did to my son, because I'm hurting. I'm still hurting, and it's not going to go away until I get justice for my son," Elizabeth Gonzales said. "Because he deserves that. He did not deserve to get murdered ... for no reason."
Gonzales demanded the department release video of the incident, which she says will prove her son wasn't armed, as APD initially suggested. Per its own guidelines, the department was supposed to release the video within 60 days of the shooting. Earlier this month, it said the release would be delayed because of the winter storm.
The event also feature prerecorded remarks from Foster's fiancée, Whitney Mitchell. Foster was fatally shot by an Army sergeant who drove into a Black Lives Matter protest last July.
Mitchell said Foster, who was white, was supportive of her need as a Black woman to demonstrate for racial justice and escorted her in her wheelchair to protests throughout the summer.
"He was very vocal online about injustices, regardless if it made people feel uncomfortable," she said. "He saw everything that I experienced, and it made him angry. We both wanted to do what we could. He pushed me for hours in the sun, and was with me every step of the way."
Mitchell's attorney said they have met with Garza's office and feel confident the case will go to a grand jury some time this year.
The family of Javier Ambler, a 40-year-old Black man who was killed while in the custody of Williamson County sheriff's deputies in 2019, also reiterated calls for an indictment. That case is expected to go before a Travis County grand jury before the end of the month.
After the news conference, a group of demonstrators walking to a memorial for Foster was met by police officers who demanded they get out of the road.
A video of the incident shared with KUT shows Mitchell falling out of her wheelchair as an officer moves her to the sidewalk. At least one of the demonstrators appears to be arrested. KUT reached out to APD about the incident, but has not yet received a response.
Monday's demonstrations come as APD faces a transition in leadership and retools how it trains officers. A slew of reports have suggested APD's training protocols instill a "warrior mentality" and that some materials perpetuate racist stereotypes. The Austin City Council last week approved a measure to restart cadet classes no later than June 7. They were put on hold last year as they underwent review.
It will be the first class following the departure of embattled APD Chief Brian Manley, who retires this week. Assistant Chief Joseph Chacon will take over the department on an interim basis.