AUSTIN -- The Texas Civil Rights Project wants the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the Austin Police Department after last week's deadly officer-involved shooting.
Detectives Charles Kleinert killed Larry Eugene Jackson during a struggle near a bank in Central Austin. Police say Jackson ran after Kleinert asked him about a possible attempt to commit bank fraud. Kleinart chased him.
According to our partners at the Austin-American Statesman, Kleinart says he accidentally shot Jackson in the back of the neck. Police say Jackson was unarmed.
The Civil Rights Group also says the City Council is not properly watching over the Police Department.
Below is the entire letter written by the Texas Civil Rights Project to the U.S. Department of Justice:
Dear Mr. Geissler:
Last year, at about this time (June 27, 2013), we sent you a renewed Complaint by National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (Austin, Texas Branch) v. Austin Police Department and City of Austin, and three attachments. We filed a Supplement to the Complaint on July 24, 2012.
That Complaint and Supplement related to the one we filed on June 19, 2004, which resulted in a detailed agreement with the Department of Justice and the Austin Police Department.
All the complaints have dealt with APD’s systematic misuse of force, sometimes deadly force, especially against minority individuals. Despite DOJ’s previous intervention and recommendations subsequent to the first complaint, however, it appears that the misuse of force, and especially deadly force, continues unabated.
In fact, last year’s July 24 Supplement included the 2011 Annual Report from the Office of the Police Monitor that described APD’s continued use of force against minorities, disproportionately.
The matter seems to be getting much worse, and shows no signs of improving.
Last Friday (July 26) saw the worst scenario so far. A police office, contrary to official policy, chased an African American, Larry Eugene Jackson Jr., who had gone to a bank unawares that it had been robbed, tried to open the doors (which had been locked), and then was confronted suddenly by a police detective, Charles Kleinert. Mr. Jackson ran. The officer commandeered a private vehicle, and caught up with him. Something happened after that, but Mr. Jackson ended up with a fatal shot at the base of the back of his head.
The best the police can say at this point is that Kleinert thought the victim might have been thinking about defrauding the back – although there is absolutely nothing to support this absurd allegation.
In fact, this allegation reflects Chief Art Acevedo’s method of holding an “explanatory” press conference late in the date and then trashing the victim. Because of the lateness of the day, the press cannot get any real balanced response, and Acevedo’s account becomes the unofficial narrative.
Even if this narrative had any merit (and, at the end of the day, it will be debunked), there is still no justification for the chase and use of deadly force. The office put into place the causation, against official policy, that led to the shooting death of Mr. Jackson.
Racial profiling probably played a role in this tragedy, too. Mr. Jackson was an African American in a white area of town. And the police knew that the earlier bank robber(s) was/were white.
I have attached the news articles about Mr. Jackson’s very sad death.
This is the third police shooting death this year, and the sixth use of deadly force.
Earlier this year, the police shot and killed a mentally ill man. The police knew it was a mental health call, but did not use a mental health officer, trained for such situations. The result was an overly aggressive confrontation, an overreaction by the victim, and ultimately his death.
Recently, James Barton was shot at during a routine traffic stop during morning rush hour on a main artery in Austin. Fortunately, the officer missed him, although Mr. Barton, a middle-aged man, suffered major angina complications. APD still will not reveal the name of the office, who shot at Mr. Barton, who was about doing his work. This unfortunately is reflective of the City and APD’s lack of transparency in these events.
We can provide you much more detail and information if you wish, although all of this information, and more, should be readily available through the Police Monitor’s office.
It is very clear that the people of Austin are in great need of Department of Justice intervention yet again. There is no reason why someone who makes a routine visit to the bank should be dead at the hands of the police. Or that someone is killed during what should be a mental health call. Or that a citizen should be shot at during a routine traffic stop. The people are at great risk these days from the police.
These shootings indicate that the police are not being properly trained and supervised and are overreacting in situations, to the peril of the citizens
We are also of the view, I regret to say, that the reason that the police chief and APD have not been reined is, to a great measure, the fault of the City Council, which steadfastly refused to exercise any management, oversight, or control over the police, even though the Council has that duty under the city charter.
We respectfully renew our request for intervention by the Department of Justice once again.
We suggest that a renewed intervention should also address the City Council’s culpability in not providing proper oversight and management of the police chief and the police department.
Please let me know if you have any questions. Thank you for your attention to this matter.
James C. Harrington
Cc: Nelson Linder
President, NAACP of Austin