Ex-APD Detective Indicted in Shooting
Kleinert released on personal bond
On Monday, a Travis County grand jury indicted Charles Kleinert on manslaughter charges for the fatal shooting last year of Larry Jackson Jr. The former APD detective turned himself in to the Travis County Justice Complex Monday afternoon, and was immediately released on personal bond.
The grand jury considered the case for seven weeks, ultimately ruling that Kleinert "did then and there recklessly cause the death of Larry Jackson by striking and by attempting to strike Larry Jackson with the defendant's hand while holding a loaded firearm." The indictment also said that Kleinert created a "substantial and unjustifiable risk" in attempting to seize Jackson while holding a loaded firearm.
The shooting occurred July 26, 2013, under a bridge near Shoal Creek Trail. According to police, Kleinert encountered Jackson while investigating an unrelated robbery at the West 35th Street Benchmark Bank. Jackson attempted to enter the locked bank twice. After the second attempt, the bank manager confronted Jackson, who reportedly misidentified himself.
The manager then reported the incident to Kleinert, police said. Kleinert had a brief conversation with Jackson before Jackson fled. Kleinert pursued on foot, later commandeering a car in pursuit of Jackson. After a scuffle, Jackson was fatally shot in the back of the neck. He was unarmed.
At the time, Austin Police Assistant Chief Brian Manley maintained that Jackson was at the bank to "commit a fraud." Reportedly, Kleinert told Internal Affairs investigators that his gun fired accidentally during the altercation. That investigation was never completed due to Kleinert's sudden retirement in October.
The incident prompted civil rights groups, including the Texas Civil Rights Project and Austin NAACP, to ask the U.S. Department of Justice to reopen an investigation into APD's use of force. City Manager Marc Ott made a similar request shortly after. The DOJ declined to intervene; in a September letter, Jonathan Smith, head of the DOJ's special litigation section, said the city already had proper oversight mechanisms in place as a result of the DOJ's recommendations made in 2007.
Meanwhile, Jackson's mother and stepfather, Billie and Larry Mercer, charged that the shooting was no accident. In September, attorney Adam Loewy filed a lawsuit on behalf of the family alleging racial profiling was at play in the shooting. Separately, City Council considered a proposed settlement benefiting Jackson's three minor children. In February, Council postponed any action until the grand jury decision.
At a press conference held shortly after the grand jury's action, Billie Mercer said the indictment was the best Mother's Day gift she could ask for. Loewy added, "This is a very good day for justice." It is uncertain how the civil suit will proceed.
Kleinert's supporters, however, expressed confidence that he would not be convicted. In a statement, Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas Executive Director Charley Wilkison said, "This case is complex and may very well take some time to ferret out the truth."
Mayor Lee Leffingwell and the Austin Police Department each issued similar statements saying they respected the jury's decision. Austin Police Monitor Margo Frasier asked for others to respect the decision as well. "Whenever there is loss of life, we want to see a full investigation and due process for all involved," she said. Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg declined further comment, saying, "Because this is a pending case, no documents will be released."
If found guilty, Kleinert faces prison time of two to 20 years and a fine not to exceed $10,000.