City of Austin Settles Case Over Firing of Officer Who Killed David Joseph

Dec 2, 2016

The City of Austin has reached a legal settlement with a police officer who was fired for killing unarmed black teenager David Joseph in February.

The city says the deal pays former officer Geoffrey Freeman $35,000 in exchange for him waiving any claims against the city and vowing never to work again for the Austin Police Department. The settlement was meant to avoid an arbitration hearing set for Monday, which sought to appeal his firing on the basis that his actions were within his training and the law. That effort was backed by the Combined Law Enforcement Association of Texas, which criticized the decision leveled by then-Chief Art Acevedo, who's since taken a job as police chief in Houston.

“They knew that Officer Freeman had followed the training he was provided by Art Acevedo and the police department. He did his job that day. He protected the peace and he came home safe, and it’s a very unfortunate set of circumstances,” said Charley Wilkison, the executive director of the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas.

Newly-appointed Interim Chief Brian Manley said the department respects the city's decision to settle the case ahead of Monday's arbitration and that the department will continue its "commitment to uphold the highest standards for its officers." 

In the same statement, Interim City Manager Elaine Hart said she believes the city would've won the arbitration case, but that it would be in the best interests of the city to settle the case. 

“My hope is that we can continue the healing process,” Hart said. “I believe this settlement is in the best interests of the community and the City.”

Council Member Ora Houston expressed support for the settlement, saying in a statement that the city avoided taking a chance during the arbitration. 

“It is my belief that this agreement is the best way to ensure that Mr. Freeman never works for APD again," Houston said.

Freeman was fired after fatally shooting 17-year-old David Joseph, was running down the street naked on Feb. 8 in Northeast Austin. Freeman was responding to a disturbance call and shot and killed Joseph after Joseph charged at him, Freeman said. 

This is a developing story.