New details in controversial police shooting from witness account

New details in controversial police shooting from witness account

AUSTIN -- On the afternoon of July 26, 2013, Austin police detective Charles Trey Kleinert shot Larry Eugene Jackson Jr. after a brief struggle under a Central Austin bridge. The struggle began after a confrontation at Benchmark Bank.

A woman leaving her office suddenly became part of the drama. Regina Bethune described what she witnessed in her confidential statement to investigators.

The KVUE Defenders obtained the following statement from Buthune whose car Kleinert commandeered moments before the shooting, identifying himself as a police officer:

"The male was breathless and agitated and yelled, 'Go go go' and 'follow him' multiple times," Bethune said. "He seemed very out of control and highly agitated. I was uncertain if he was really a police officer or not. I realize that either way I needed to remain calm and help him try to calm down. He did not identify himself any further once in the car. He did not tell me his name or offer any explanation as to what was going on. It was very obvious to me that he was trying to pursue someone since he kept telling me to 'go' and 'follow him.'"

Within the next few minutes, Kleinert shot Jackson -- a shooting he calls accidental.

Jackson's mother, Billie Mercer, said she still feels the pain every day.

"I'm tired of crying so much," Mercer said. "But I miss him so, so much. God I miss him. I just try to think of happy things."

Soon after Kleinert commandeered Bethune's car, she continued driving along Mills Avenue, nearing the intersection of 34th Street.

At this point in the chase, Bethune described Kleinert's demeanor.

"The male continued yelling 'go,' and he seemed to get frustrated that I was not turning quickly enough," Bethune said.

Within moments, they spotted a man Bethune thinks was Jackson.

"He was not looking over his shoulder as if he was expecting to see anyone pursuing him," Buthune said in her testimony. "I was confused at this point and asked the male in my vehicle, 'Is he dangerous?' The male yelled back, 'No!'"

Could there have been a place for her to misunderstand what he was saying?

Mindy Montford, a former prosecutor and current defense attorney, said thinks Kleinert's lawyers will challenge Bethune's memory.

"The defense is definitely going to want to pick apart her possible motivation for these statements, and what was the time frame, what was his mental state and whether or not she really understood what he was saying clearly," said Montford.

A Travis County grand jury indicted Kleinert in May on a manslaughter charge. His attorney, Randy Leavitt, did not discuss Bethune's statement. He said after last year's indictment, his client will prevail.

"A man shouldn't be charged with a criminal offense for something that happened, that was a pure accident. For involuntary conduct," Leavitt said. "He did not discharge that gun intentionally."

Greg Alvarez, Kleinert's stepbrother, described his brother as always acting calmly, even in the face of danger.

"I've never seen him do anything that even remotely resembled not being in control of himself," Alvarez said.

A jury is expected to hear Bethune's testimony later this year, when Kleinert's manslaughter trial is expected to go to court.

Bethune said after Kleinert jumped from her car, she never saw him again. That night, she learned there had been a police shooting, so she called police and gave her statement that same night.


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