AUSTIN, Texas — Editor's note: The video published above is a KVUE interview with Austin Mayor Steve Adler about police budget cuts.
The Austin Police Department (APD) has placed an officer on a 60-day temporary suspension after he tased a "passively resisting" man during an incident in March, according to a department disciplinary memo.
According to the memo, on March 13, APD Officer Thomas Childress responded to a disturbance call, where the 911 caller said a man was walking in the street with a skateboard threatening to hit cars at an H-E-B on Wood Hollow Drive. The 911 caller also reported that the man was carrying a sign with anti-Jewish sentiments while trying to attack the vehicles.
Officer Childress arrived at the scene and located the man, exited his patrol vehicle, pointed his taser at the man and told him to drop the sign and get on the ground. The memo stated that the man did not initially comply with Officer Childress' commands – eventually did – but continuously questioned the legality of the arrest throughout the incident. On Officer Childress' body-worn camera (BWC), the man could be heard repeatedly asking what crime he was alleged to have committed, according to the memo. The man also said "this is an illegal arrest" many times throughout the incident, the memo stated.
A second officer who arrived at the scene told the man he needed to comply for "officer safety." According to the memo, the man then put down both his sign and skateboard. Then, Officer Childress told him to get on the ground, lay on his stomach and put his hands behind his back, which the man did not initially do, the memo stated.
After Childress gave another warning, the man told officers he would sit down but was only doing so "under duress" and continued to state that the arrest was illegal, the memo said.
According to the memo, Childress' body-worn camera showed him telling the man to "lay on your stomach" twice and the man remained seated with his hands on his head. Childress then deployed his taser on the man and placed him in handcuffs, the memo stated. EMS tried to evaluate the man, but he refused treatment, according to the memo. The man was arrested and taken to the Travis County Jail.
During an Internal Affairs interview on July 6, Childress described the man's level of resistance as "passive." Officer Childress told the investigator he "decided to use the taser to avoid any other physical confrontation and being so close to the skateboard and the other sign closer to cars, that would be the best way to go about detaining the subject in handcuffs."
The investigator asked Officer Childress if he was concerned for his safety. Officer Childress told the investigator "I was only because I did not want to get close to a skateboard, close to any sign." He added, "I did not want to have a physical struggle with this person."
In APD's Department taser policy (Austin Police Department Policy 208.4.2: Taser Device Guidelines: Prohibited Uses), officers are prohibited from using their tasers against passively resisting subjects.
Officer Childress concluded the interview with the internal investigator by admitting he had violated APD's taser policy.
In addition to his 60-day suspension, which began Aug. 29, Childress also agreed to attend any training specified by his chain of command; agreed to a one-year probationary period where if he commits the same or a similar act as this incident, he will be indefinitely suspended; and understands his temporary suspension may be taken into consideration into potentially bypassing him for future promotion opportunities.
The officer's 60-day suspension expires on Oct. 27.
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