Judge rules in 2010 wrongful death case, reprimands APD


by QUITA CULPEPPER / KVUE News and photojournalist KENNETH NULL


Posted on March 28, 2013 at 6:03 PM

Updated Thursday, Mar 28 at 6:21 PM

AUSTIN -- There’s a ruling in the controversial case of a teen shot and killed by an Austin police officer.

On Wednesday Federal Judge Sam Sparks entered his judgment in the wrongful death lawsuit filed by the family of Devin Contreras. 

The judge ruled APD Officer James Bowman did not use excessive force when he shot and killed the Austin teen outside a Big Lots store.

Investigators say 16-year-old Contreras broke into the South Austin store with an accomplice.

Police dash cam video of the shooting shows Contreras running out of the back door of the store and  turning toward Officer Bowman as he jumps.

Officer Bowman fired 14 shots, hitting Contreras four times.

The entire incident took less than four seconds.

Police later found a loaded pistol under the teen's body.

“The law is really clear that our officers have the right to defend themselves,” said Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo. “It's a tragedy for the officer involved. It's a tragedy for the family involved. I'm hopeful that with this ruling our officer can move on and get his life back on track, which it is, and I'm happy for him.”

However, the judge also ruled in favor of the teen's family, reprimanding APD for not handing over evidence to the plaintiffs in a timely manner.

The plaintiffs submitted requests for evidence in January 2012. In August, seven months later, APD gave them only some of what they asked for. The last pieces of evidence were delivered in October 2012.

The ruling says APD has quote "a pattern and practice of providing woefully late and incomplete discovery responses." It's a rebuke Chief Acevedo doesn't take lightly.

“I'm not happy when I have a federal judge saying that we're not doing a good job. It's something that we're going to take a very hard look at,” Chief Acevedo said. “We need to fix it, and we need to fix it now.”

Because the judge reprimanded APD for not handing over evidence quickly, Contreras' family can ask to be reimbursed for part of their legal fees, even though they lost the case.