TRAVIS COUNTY, Texas — The encounter last spring between Travis County Sheriff’s Deputy Michael Anderson and Kelvin Tanner started when a homeowner called 911 because she saw a suspicious white van in her driveway.
It ended with Anderson getting placed under an internal affairs investigation -- and Tanner getting charged with a misdemeanor crime of making a false report -- a crime that a KVUE Defenders/Austin American-Statesman analysis shows law enforcement sometimes grapples with how to handle.
The video shows Anderson with his gun unholstered and at his side approaching the van that Tanner, a contractor for Amazon, was driving.
“Put your hands up! Put your hands up,” Anderson instructed.
The two embarked on a testy conversation that included Tanner’s explanation -- he said his dispatch device was broken and he was awaiting instructions from his boss -- and Anderson explaining why the homeowner was nervous.
“I felt like he made a decision when he got out of his car,” Tanner said in an interview. “I felt lucky to be here because that’s how aggressive he was.”
The next day, Tanner filed a complaint with the internal affairs division of the Travis County Sheriff’s Office alleging excessive force against Anderson.
When internal affairs investigators reviewed Anderson’s patrol car video, they noticed discrepancies in Tanner’s account, including that Anderson did not point his gun at him as Tanner claimed.
Based on that, they charged him with a crime of making a false report -- a charge that has since been dropped.
An analysis shows that 171 people have been charged with making a false report to police in the past three years, although officials think the instances in which a person lied to investigators is likely much higher. Of those, prosecutors later dismissed 32 percent, 29 percent are pending and 39 percent resulted in convictions or a form of probation.
Officials said they consider multiple factors in deciding whether to charge a person, including whether they intended to lie.
Prosecutors in Bell County in December charged Faith Cox with making a false police report after she claimed an ex-boyfriend broke into her home and sliced her with a box cutter. Cristopher Precopia was charged with multiple felonies, but the case was dismissed when he used a selfie with his mother to prove he was 60 miles away during the alleged attack. KVUE profiled the case last year.
In Tanner’s case, sheriff’s officials said they think Tanner intentionally lied -- a claim he disputes. He said he intended to accurately portray what happened.
However, under state law, a person may only be charged with making a false report in a criminal matter -- not an administrative matter such as Tanner’s complaint to internal affairs.
His attorney, Dan Dworin, said he thinks his client was retaliated against for complaining to the sheriff’s office about one of their own and is now working to have his arrest record cleared.