Austin police investigate series of street racing incidents over the weekend
The Austin Police Department said it's investigating a series of incidents over the weekend in which cars were racing and blocking traffic. One officer was injured and multiple law enforcement vehicles were damaged, APD said.
Between Saturday night and early Sunday morning, officers responded to four separate incidents, starting at the intersection of Barton Springs Road and South Lamar Boulevard, then near the I-35 Frontage Road and East Anderson. Police were also called to the Mueller neighborhood near Berkman Drive and Barbara Jordan Boulevard, and later to the intersection of Metric Boulevard and Braker Lane.
In a press release Sunday, APD said a “car club” was blocking the road, racing, doing doughnuts, shooting fireworks and throwing things like glass at law enforcement. At one point, a fire broke out.
APD said two people were arrested for evading arrest and that the investigation is ongoing.
According to many people on social media, the gatherings resembled what is known as a “sideshow,” which gained popularity in California's Bay Area in the '80s. They were originally a form of self-expression, KQED reports, but developed a reputation for being dangerous. They often feature drivers who do car stunts blocking major intersections.
The weekend's incidents occurred amid tension between the Austin City Council and the police union, and garnered the attention of local and state lawmakers.
Council Member Ryan Alter, whose district includes one of the areas where the incidents occurred, said Council plans to follow the investigation this week.
“I think once we have all the information about what exactly it was that happened – were there steps that could have made it so that we could have addressed this faster?" he said. "Why did it take well over 20 minutes for police to arrive? Is that a function of the challenges we've had with the 911 call center or just a function of the challenge that there was logistically in terms of just how many cars were blocking access to where the police needed to arrive."
In a press release, Austin Mayor Kirk Watson highlighted staffing issues with the 911 call center and law enforcement.
“The Austin Police Association posted some false comments on Sunday that appeared to wrongly conflate this illegal incident with important community conversations about safety and oversight,” he said. “Twitter is not an appropriate forum for contract negotiations, and no Austinite should ever accept the false choice between public safety and responsible policing — Austin can, and will, have both. If the Austin Police Association would like to talk about staffing and other issues, we welcome them back to the negotiating table to discuss a one-year contract.”
APD did not respond to KUT’s request for comment. The Travis County District Attorney’s Office said it is still evaluating the situation and did not want to provide a comment at this time.