UPDATE: Ott Asks DOJ For Review of Police Tactics

Request comes on heels of Jackson shooting death

UPDATE: In the wake of last month's police shooting death of Larry Eugene Jackson, City Manager Marc Ott said this afternoon that he has requested that the Department of Justice investigate Austin Police, to determine if their "tactics and practices" are consistent with department policies and with national best practices.

Ott said the shooting served to prompt the request for the review, but that his request should not be seen as denoting a "lack of faith in Chief [Art] Acevedo, his leadership team, or the men and women of the Austin Police Department," he said during an afternoon press conference at City Hall.

Jackson was killed by a single bullet fired from the gun of APD Detective Charles Kleinert during a scuffle under a bridge over Shoal Creek near West 34th Street on Friday afternoon, July 26. Kleinert had been inside a nearby Benchmark Bank conducting a follow-up investigation to an earlier, and unrelated, bank robbery when Jackson came to the bank's locked front door and tried to get inside. Unable to do so he left briefly before returning and again trying to enter the bank. The bank manager went out to talk to Jackson and found his behavior suspicious, which she in turn reported to Kleinert. Kleinert went outside to talk to Jackson, a conversation police say was caught on video; Jackson misidentified himself, police said, and then fled. Kleinert apparently believed Jackson intended to "defraud" the bank in some way, police said. The 19-year department veteran decided to give chase – including by commandeering a car and having a civilian drive him around looking for Jackson – and caught up with Jackson as the 32-year-old was walking along the sidewalk over Shoal Creek. The pair somehow got into an altercation beneath the bridge and Kleinert's gun fired – reportedly by accident – striking Jackson in the back of the neck, killing him.

Ott's announcement comes on the heels of a similar request made of the DOJ by the Texas Civil Rights Project and Austin NAACP. The two groups first requested the DOJ investigate APD's use of force back in 2004. The agency agreed to do so in 2007; a year later the feds came back with a list of recommendations for improvement – many involving police policies and reporting procedures. The APD embraced the suggestions and in 2011 the DOJ official closed its inquiry. In the wake of Jackson's shooting death, on top of other troubling use-of-force instances cited in a letter to DOJ written by TCRP Director Jim Harrington, TCRP and NAACP have asked that DOJ reopen its inquiry.

Ott said that he has made the request because the DOJ offers an "objective set of eyes" and can weigh in on whether the tactics and practices police use are in alignment with updated policies and procedures – some prompted by the previous review – and with best practices nationwide.

The request, Ott said, is not for the DOJ to do any investigation into whether Jackson's civil rights may have been violated in connection with his death.

PREVIOUS:At a press conference July 29, Austin Police Assistant Chief Brian Manley acknowledged that the fatal shooting Friday of Larry Eugene Jackson, Jr. by an APD detective was more complicated than initially described, and that it involved not simply a “foot chase” but a search in a private car commandeered by the APD detective.

Manley said police are "confident" that Jackson – shot and killed by APD Detective Charles Kleinert on Friday afternoon – had come to the Benchmark Bank where the detective was investigating an earlier (unrelated) robbery to "commit a fraud" and was not there to conduct any legitimate business.

Jackson misidentified himself when he was questioned by the bank manager that afternoon outside the bank on West 35th Street. Jackson had previously tried to enter the bank, police said, but the door was locked because of the ongoing robbery investigation. Jackson briefly left, police say, then returned and tried again to enter the bank before he was confronted by the manager, who in turn told Kleinert, who was inside the bank conducting a follow-up investigation of the morning robbery, about the exchange. Kleinert went outside to talk with Jackson and after a two- or three-minute conversation – captured by surveillance cameras – Jackson fled, police say.

Although police say they've ruled out any connection between Jackson and the robber who struck the facility that morning (a robber who police believe is connected to at least three other bank robberies, including two in Austin and one in San Antonio), Manley told reporters at a Monday press briefing that they are nonetheless certain that Jackson was up to no good.

Police said that Kleinert, dressed in plain clothes and displaying his APD credentials on his shirt collar, took off on foot after Jackson – why, exactly, Kleinert felt the need to initiate the pursuit remains unclear. (With video of Jackson and info about his "fictitious" ID in hand it would seem Jackson could be found later.) Manley said that Kleinert's reasons for taking immediate action would be explored during the department's criminal and administrative inquiries into the shooting. The department will "have a better idea [of] what his intentions were" and "what was his mindset" as the investigation proceeds, Manley said. And although it's not illegal to do so, it's "really not a good idea to run from police," he said.

Manley also provided a bit more information about that pursuit, including that although Kleinert did initially follow Jackson on foot he later stopped a "motorist and enlisted their aid," which is legal under state law.

While that may be true, a source tells the Chronicle that the motorist in question, sitting in a car in a parking lot near the bank, was unnerved by Kleinert's commandeering of the person's car. Indeed, the source said that Kleinert was "out of control" and did not effectively identify himself before directing the motorist to drive him around near the bank. The motorist implored Kleinert to calm down and explain what was happening, the source said; Kleinert declined to do so, the source said, instead telling the motorist to "Go! Go! Go!" When the pair drove up to a bridge that spans Shoal Creek, Kleinert spotted Jackson, who the source said was merely walking along the sidewalk. Kleinert reportedly said, "There he is!" before jumping out of the car. Shaken, the motorist drove away and subsequently called police.

According to Manley, Kleinert followed Jackson under the bridge near the Shoal Creek Trail and there a scuffle ensued; Jackson was shot once, in the back of the neck. He died just before 4:30 pm, police said. Manley said police are still trying to determine what happened during the altercation and whether Kleinert's gun was fired "intentionally or accidentally."

Manley declined to release any additional information about why police believe Jackson was there to defraud the bank – or how that would be done, especially with the bank closed – or to discuss any additional details about the confrontation that led to the shooting, saying there were additional "critical" witnesses yet to be interviewed. Additionally, he said that police are still searching for an alleged witness to the shooting, surveillance photos of whom police released over the weekend. Anyone able to identify the witness is asked to call the APD tip line at 512/974-6840.

Manley said APD extends its condolences to Jackson's family.* [See note below.] Manley is serving as acting police chief while Chief Art Acevedo is out of town and with his mother, who is in hospice care in California.

*A previous version of this update reported that Manley said the department "offered" its condolences to Jackson's family, leaving the impression that they had done so previous to the press conference. That is not what Manley said. Indeed, in an email to the Chronicle Jackson's sister wrote that APD has not reached out to the family beyond providing Jackson's parents with a death notification on Saturday evening, July 27, at 5:45 pm.

EARLIER: As of Monday morning, Austin Police are still searching for a man who they believe witnessed some, or all, of an altercation between an APD detective and a 32-year-old man that ended with the fatal shooting of that man late Friday afternoon, under a bridge near Shoal Creek Hospital.

APD are looking for a man captured on nearby surveillance cameras who they believe saw a scuffle between Larry Eugene Jackson, Jr. and 19-year APD veteran Det. Charles Kleinert that ended with Kleinert shooting and killing Jackson in West Austin near the Shoal Creek Trail.

Kleinert, an investigator with the department's robbery unit, was inside the Benchmark Bank at 1508 W. 35th just after 4pm on Friday afternoon "conducting follow-up" investigation work of a robbery that took place at the bank that morning, said APD Assistant Chief Brian Manley at a press briefing near the site of the shooting, when Jackson approached the locked front door of the bank and tried to get inside. When he couldn't get in, Jackson walked away "for a minute," Manley said, before returning and again attempting to open the front door of the bank. Jackson's actions got the attention of the bank manager, who went out front to talk with him. During the brief conversation, the manager subsequently reported to Kleinert, the man had identified himself "in a manner" that the manager knew to be false, Manley said.

Kleinert then exited the bank to talk with the man; the pair had a two- to three-minute conversation outside the bank that was recorded by a surveillance camera, Manley said, before Jackson took off running. Kleinert followed as Jackson ran underneath the bridge near Shoal Creek. There the pair "engaged in a physical struggle" before Kleinert pulled and fired his gun, killing Jackson who died at 4:24pm Friday afternoon.

Jackson, a black man, was not a suspect in the earlier bank robbery. Police believe that robbery – and perhaps three additional robberies, including two in Austin and one in San Antonio – were committed by a tall and heavyset white man, who appears on the bank’s security video. Why Kleinert decided to pursue Jackson at this point remains a mystery. Indeed, mere "flight by a subject who is not suspected of criminal activity shall not serve as the sole justification for engaging in a foot pursuit without the development of reasonable suspicion regarding the individual's involvement in criminal activity," reads APD's policy on foot pursuit. Deciding to "initiate or continue" a foot chase is a "decision that an officer must make quickly and under unpredictable and dynamic circumstances," the policy continues. Foot chases place the officer and public "at significant risk," and therefore, no officer "shall be criticized or disciplined" for deciding not to give chase, it reads. "Surveillance" – presumably, including the video surveillance available in the area, including outside the bank (and the same cameras that captured the movements of the alleged witness to the shooting) – and "containment" are the safest ways to track a fleeing "suspect," reads the policy. Officers should "consider alternatives to engaging in or continuing a foot pursuit" under a number of specific circumstances, including when "the officer is acting alone" or when the fleeing person enters a "wooded or otherwise isolated area and there are insufficient officers to provide backup and containment," according to the policy.

Jackson's is the third fatality out of six officer-involved shootings this year. Jim Harrington, director of the Texas Civil Rights Project, says he is concerned that Austin police are overreacting and improperly using force when it is unnecessary. "These shootings seem to indicate that the police are not being properly trained and supervised and are overreacting in situations, to the peril of the citizens," he said in a press release. "We cannot tolerate this constant use of deadly force. People should not have to fear for their lives when they are in a parking lot, stopped for a traffic offense, or go to the bank."

Harrington said TCRP intends to take the matter up with the U.S. Department of Justice, which had investigated a sweeping complaint about police use of force filed in 2004 by TCRP and the Austin NAACP. The DOJ accepted the complaint in 2007, returning a year later with 160 recommendations for improvement – including to the department's use-of-force policy and citizen complaint process. The DOJ closed the investigation in 2011, finding that there was "no reasonable cause to believe that APD has engaged in a pattern or practice that violated the Constitution or laws of the United States," according to the DOJ. It may be time, however, to revisit that conclusion, Harrington believes.

An investigation into the shooting is ongoing and Kleinert, a well-liked and respected officer who joined the force in 1994 after working with APD in a civilian capacity, is on administrative leave pending the outcome of the inquiry.

Anyone with information about the alleged witness (see gallery of photos with this story) is asked to call APD's tip line at 512/974-6840.

Got something to say on the subject? Send a letter to the editor.

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