Lawyer: Release sealed documents in Byron Carter case



Posted on January 11, 2013 at 11:11 PM

Updated Friday, Jan 11 at 11:30 PM

AUSTIN -- An Austin lawyer is calling upon the City and the Austin Police Department to allow the public release of sealed documents in connection with the high-profile shooting death of Byron Carter.

Police say 20-year-old Carter was shot by an APD officer in May 2011 along East 8th Street.

Austin police say around 11 p.m. on May 30, Austin police officers Jeffrey Rodriguez and Nathan Wagner were looking for car thieves downtown when they saw two people walking along 7th Street acting suspiciously. The officers got off their bicycles and walked up to a red car parked in front of La Vista de Guadalupe apartments located at 813 E. 8th Street.
The officers could not initially see inside the car, but say the lights came on, showing two men inside the vehicle.
Acevedo said the car swerved toward the officers, striking Rodriguez and pinning Wagner against a Jeep parked nearby. Wagner fired several shots as he was pinned, striking and killing Carter and wounding a 16-year-old who was driving the car, police said.
Wagner was cleared by a grand jury in March 2012.
The civil case is set for trial this July in federal court.
Lawyer Adam Loewy is accusing the Austin police chief and several officers of lying about the circumstances surrounding the shooting. Loewy is also accusing the City of trying to cover up findings.

"The City of Austin and the Austin Police Department are going to great lengths to make sure this report is not given to the public because the report shows a totally different story than the story the police department has put out," Loewy said.

In 2011, Chief Art Acevedo told reporters what happened the night of the shooting.

"He [officer Nathan Wagner] saw his partner struck by the suspect vehicle, he saw his partner go down, and fearing that his partner was underneath that vehicle met the potential of being dragged, fired several rounds," said Acevedo in 2011.

"That's a total lie, one hundred percent, chief Acevedo and the police department when saying this officer ruptured his achilles, literally, were looking into the camera and lying. He never ruptured his achilles and we believe evidence clearly shows he was not hurt at all, he was never hit by a car," said Loewy. 

"Well that's absurd because officer Rodriguez did suffer an achilles injury and it wasn't as severe as he was initally told, it certainly was an injury that kept him off of work," said Robert Icenhauer-Ramirez, officer Nathan Wagner's lawyer.

Loewy said the truth is in the police monitor report and Austin Police Department's Internal Review.

According to state law, those documents are sealed unless an officer is disciplined.

"I'd be very happy for them to be released but the fact of the matter is, I'd be very surprised the other side would want them released. I think there's a lot in there they may not be too pleased to have out in the public's eye," said Ramirez.

Loewy said in similar cases, federal judges have ruled in the past to unseal these types of documents that are otherwise protected by state law.

"That's another big factor in this case. If my client's had not brought this lawsuit against the city and the police officer, they would have no idea how their son died, absolutely no idea. They were told a certain story about why their kid was shot five times and it's been shown in this lawsuit that story's been a total lie. They now know what happened that night. It's our position the community needs to know that," said Loewy.

Loewy filed the motion January 9. A judge will decide whether to unseal the documents.

"Mr. Loewy knows we do not litigate cases in the media. We let the process take its course," Acevedo told KVUE.

A spokeswoman for the City of Austin declined comment.