APD fires officer who shot at man during traffic stop

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by SHANNON MURRAY / KVUE NEWS and photojournalist ERIN COKER

Bio | Email | Follow: @ShannonM_KVUE

kvue.com

Posted on September 27, 2013 at 4:31 PM

Updated Friday, Sep 27 at 10:53 PM

AUSTIN -- An Austin police officer has been fired for shooting at a driver during a traffic stop.

Friday Chief Art Acevedo said the shooting was unreasonable, especially the way the officer acted after he fired his gun. But the civil rights attorney handling the case says his termination is not enough.

Dash camera video shows what happened after James Barton was pulled over at 12th Street and Airport for running a red light back in May.

"Stay in the car. Stay in the car. Stay in the car," yelled Austin Police Department Officer Justin Boehm, who fired one shot as Barton stepped outside of the car.

It cost Officer Boehm his job.

"It was not reasonable and therefore under our policies the only appropriate discipline is indefinite suspension," Acevedo said.

In September Barton told KVUE News the officer recklessly fired at him.

"He turned on his lights. I pulled over, reached for my wallet, and opened my door. I was getting out when a bullet came flying past my head. He missed," Barton explained.

Chief Acevedo said even though Barton appeared to reach for something and stepped out of his car, the shooting should not have happened -- even more so, what happened after he fired the gun.

"It's clearly a wallet. He now knows it wasn't a firearm. His conduct subsequent to seeing was not consistent with what we expect at the Austin Police Department," Acevedo explained.

"It's only a miracle that Mr. Barton wasn't killed. The officer missed him," said Jim Harrington with the Texas Civil Rights Project.

Harrington is representing Barton in a civil suit and says the chief's action is not enough.

"It shouldn't take more than four months to fire this guy," Harrington said. "It really is scary, and I think it ought to be alarming to the people of the city."

Chief Acevedo says they look at each case individually.

"We don't look to see which way the wind is blowing. We look at the facts," Acevedo said. "I will never be up here as a police chief and say 'Hey, we have 10 officer involved shootings. Guess what guys, ladies, you have no right to defend yourself. You have no right to defend somebody else no matter what the circumstances are because the community has decided that seven shootings is too much.'"

A grand jury reviewed the case and last week decided the police officer should not face criminal charges.

KVUE spoke with Barton Friday by phone, and he says he feels a little bit safer on the streets of Austin after news of Boehm's firing.

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