Downtown attacks highlight homeless aggression


by KRIS BETTS / KVUE News and photojournalist CHRIS SHADROCK

Bio | Email | Follow: @KrisB_KVUE

Posted on September 12, 2013 at 10:11 PM

Updated Friday, Sep 13 at 7:18 AM

AUSTIN -- A recent assault on Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo highlights a recent increase in aggressive panhandling and downtown homeless crimes.

Scott Smith lives in a condo in downtown Austin. Smith, who is blind, says he has been physically assaulted by someone living on the streets within the past year.

“There have been an overwhelming number of incidents, but those that have been aggressive, about three,” said Scott.

Downtown APD Commander Jason Dusterhoft tells KVUE News they received more than 900 calls last year -- regarding three homeless individuals alone.

“If we're focusing on three people, 900 times in one year, that's a problem,” said Dusterhoft.

Video from a security camera downtown shows two women, one of them pregnant, walking downtown in July when a homeless man runs up, punches them and stumbles away.

The man was later arrested.

“They weren't even looking and he came up and struck both of them in the face,” said Dusterhoft.

The most recent incident involved Chief Acevedo on September 3rd and ended in the arrest of 57-year-old Michael Fitzsimmons.

According to the arrest affidavit obtained by KVUE, the executive chef at Eddie V’s in downtown Austin recognized Acevedo and asked him to help remove Fitzsimmons from restaurant property, where he was sleeping outside.

When Acevedo identified himself and tried to ask Fitzsimmons to leave, the affidavit reports Fitzsimmons started yelling, getting aggressive, and then he pushed the chief in the chest.

“I think it just speaks to the challenges we have with aggressive transients that don't want to abide by the rules of society,” said Chief Acevedo.

Chief Acevedo says anybody who pushes someone, officer or civilian, can be arrested.