A federal judge has dismissed a manslaughter charge against former Austin Police Detective Charles Kleinert in the death of Larry Eugene Jackson, Jr.
Kleinert, who's white, shot Jackson, an African-American, following a foot pursuit and a scuffle after Jackson approached the scene of a bank robbery in Central Austin on July 26, 2013.
Federal District Judge Lee Yeakel ruled Kleinert was acting as part of a joint FBI task force on bank robberies, and is entitled to immunity, since he was acting as a federal officer when he pursued and shot Jackson.
The law cited in the dismissal of the manslaughter charge is called Supremacy Clause Immunity, used in a similar case in 1889.
"I am totally dismayed by today’s federal court action dismissing the Charles Kleinert prosecution," Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg said in a statement. "With this federal court action dismissing the case, it appears that an Austin Police Department officer can be assigned to a federal task force and avoid prosecution in state court."
"We will review the federal court’s opinion and determine what steps we can take, if any, in the near future," Lehmberg said.
The attorney for the former police officer says he hopes Lehmberg decides not to appeal, but vows to "vigorously defend the federal court’s correct decision" if she does.
"The court’s decision to dismiss this case is 100 percent correct," Kleinert's attorney Randy Leavitt said in an email. "State prosecutors cannot bring criminal charges to second-guess, Monday morning quarterback, or micromanage the conduct of a federal officer in carrying out his or her duties."
Meanwhile, the attorney representing Jackson's parents is calling the dismissal an "outrage."
"This shows the lengths in which the system will protect a police officer at any cost," attorney Adam Loewy says. "This man murdered Larry by shooting him in the back of the head, where the gun was on Larry’s neck."
"He was indicted by a Travis County jury, and he just got off on a legal technicality," he says. "That is the way the system is set up in this country and it must change.”
Loewy says he intends to call on the U.S. Justice Department for a federal review of the case.