Interim Police Chief Brian Manley suspended an officer for missing a gun during the pat-down of a teenager who used the gun to commit suicide in the back of a police car in January.
KVUE and the Austin American-Statesman reporter Tony Plohetski confirmed that Officer Iven Wall was found to have violated the department's procedures on conducting a proper pat-down. Wall will serve a 20-day unpaid suspension.
The suspension was in lieu of termination in exchange for Wall's agreement not to appeal, Plohetski confirmed.
The shooting happened in the back of Wall's patrol car in Downtown Austin in January. Wall had been called to a store at Barton Creek Square Mall to investigate 19-year-old Zachary Anam for possible shoplifting.
According to a memo obtained by KVUE, Officer Wall was the first officer to arrive at the Barton Creek mall. The memo states that after Wall identified Anam, he ran a warrant check and discovered that he had several outstanding felony warrants for his arrest.
"Officer Wall ultimately entered the holding room and performed a pat down of the subject, switching out the loss prevention handcuffs with his APD issued handcuffs, while a backup officer stood nearby," the memo read. "Officer Wall subsequently placed the subject for transport in the backseat of his patrol unit and secured the seatbelt."
On the way to Austin Police Department's headquarters, Anam was able to remove his seatbelt with his hands handcuffed behind his back and "advised Officer Wall he was suicidal," the memo said. Police said Anam then took a firearm out of his waistband and shot himself in the head minutes later.
Wall has been under investigation since the incident.
Wall told investigators that he only patted Anam down inside the loss prevention office instead of doing a complete search. The memo states that Wall said he normally conducts a full and complete search in front of his unit camera, and could not offer an explanation as to why he deviated from his normal practice.
He also told investigators that he threw away the "multi-tool" box cutter that Anam used to cut off merchandise tags at the mall instead of seizing and logging the tool as evidence. The officer acknowledged that this was against APD policy.
The memo states that, during the course of the investigation, the officer conveyed his substantial regrets for his mistakes in this matter and advised investigators he hopes others learn from his mistakes.
"No one can punish Officer Wall more than he has punished himself. This was a tragic event and something he thinks about every time he puts someone in the back of his patrol vehicle," said Ken Casaday, President of the Austin Police Association.
Anam's family released the following statement:
Zac Anam’s parents, Sayeed and Cara, are severely disappointed with the minimal discipline imposed on Officer Wall. “A twenty-day suspension is like a vacation,” said Sayeed. After arresting Zac for shoplifting, Officer Wall failed to adequately search Zac before placing him in the back of an Austin Police Department squad car. As a result, the distraught Zac was able to take his life with a handgun that remained in hiswaist band.
“In light of the many instances in which APD has missed weapons in the past, this appears to be a systemic failure on the part of APD,” said the family’s attorney, Jeff Edwards. “Unless Chief Manley commits to retraining every officer so that they learn how to properly frisk suspects, this will happen to someone else. A 20-day suspension does little to nothing to correct the issue going forward and is insulting to the Anam family, who lost their only son.”
Last week, another APD officer was under investigation after a woman smuggled a gun inside the Travis County Jail. An internal investigation into that incident is ongoing.
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