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Officer Will Not Face Criminal Charges in Connection with Traffic Stop Shooting

Whether officer will be disciplined by chief remains unknown

By Jordan Smith, 3:22PM, Fri. Sep. 20, 2013

Officer Will Not Face Criminal Charges in Connection with Traffic Stop Shooting

A Travis County grand jury has declined to indict Austin Police Officer Justin Boehm who fired his gun, but missing hitting a man who got out of his car and approached Boehm during a routine traffic stop in May.

On May 8, Boehm pulled over 54-year-old James Barton for running a red light at East 12th and Airport Boulevard. Instead of remaining in his pickup truck, however, Barton got out of his vehicle and began walking toward Boehm; Boehm ordered Barton to stay put, but Barton reportedly did not comply. At the same time, Boehm said he saw Barton remove something back from his pocket. "Boehm told investigators that he believed Barton had a weapon and that he feared for his life and therefore fired one time at Barton," according to a statement released by the Travis County district attorney's office. Fortunately, Boehm missed his target.

As it turned out, the "black object" Boehm saw Barton going for was actually Barton's wallet.

The grand jury met on three occasions to consider whether to charge Boehm with a crime in connection with the case. After considering the evidence and the testimony of seven witnesses, including Boehm, the jury concluded he would not face criminal prosecution.

Still unclear is whether Boehm will face any discipline for failing to comply with any APD policies in connection with the incident.

In August Barton, represented by the Texas Civil Rights Project, filed a federal lawsuit against Boehm, the city of Austin, and additional unnamed officers who showed up at the scene after Boehm fired his weapon to detain Barton. The lawsuit seeks to hold the officer and city responsible for the use of excessive force and for Barton's unlawful arrest and false imprisonment.

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