Acevedo Speaks About Freeman Termination

Police chief says officer violated APD policies in shooting teen

APD Chief Acevedo
APD Chief Acevedo (Photo by Jana Birchum)

In a disciplinary memo issued today (March 21), Police Chief Art Acevedo announced that he was indefinitely suspending APD Officer Geoffrey Freeman for the shooting death of 17-year-old David Joseph.

Acevedo said that Freeman violated four department policies: Response to Resistance; Determining the Objective Reasonableness of Force; Substance Induced Excited Delirium (a standard that dictates the ways in which officers are supposed to interact with mentally ill or altered subjects); and Neglect of Duty.

Freeman, an 11-year veteran at APD, fatally shot Joseph in broad daylight on Monday, Feb. 8, after responding to a disturbance call in the Edward patrol sector in Northeast Austin. He found Joseph in the 12000 block of Natures Bend a few minutes after 10:30am. At the time, Joseph was in the street naked and unarmed. In a verbal statement issued shortly after the shooting, Freeman said that he stopped his car in front of Joseph and gave him an initial set of commands but that Joseph did not respond to them. Instead, Freeman said, Joseph charged at the responding officer, who fired his handgun. Freeman’s in-car camera failed to capture video footage of the shooting. The camera did pick up audio footage. Initial reports from APD Chief of Staff Brian Manley indicated that the amount of time between Freeman’s issuance of initial commands and his shooting was “a matter of seconds.”

Acevedo wrote in his nine-page memo (the public portion of which has been heavily redacted) that Freeman chose to use deadly force on Joseph “even though he knew other officers had yet to arrive but were imminently in route.” Further, Acevedo concluded, “no one was under a threat of imminent harm of suffering serious bodily injury or death by Mr. Joseph.” He called Ofc. Freeman’s decision to draw his weapon upon exiting his vehicle “unwarranted.” He said that Freeman waited approximately 6.7 seconds to shoot Joseph, who was struck twice, in the leg and in the chest. Backup was on the scene after one minute and 27 seconds.

“Officer Freeman chose to immediately respond to this situation with deadly force rather than using a lesser amount of force that was available to him (ASP, Taser, Pepper Spray, physical force),” Acevedo continued. “Furthermore, Officer Freeman had a less-than-lethal force shotgun in his trunk that he failed to make readily available to him despite his belief that he was dealing with an aggressive subject that was mentally ill or experiencing [redacted].”

A statement from the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas (CLEAT) indicated that Freeman will appeal the ruling. For more on CLEAT and the police union's response, see "APD Officer Freeman Fired," March 21.) Acevedo said at a press conference Monday afternoon that he is confident an arbitrator will uphold the department’s decision.

It could take a full year before Freeman’s appeal goes before an arbitrator. Typically, the introduction of an appeal means that the paperwork from the corresponding Internal Affairs investigation becomes a matter of public record, however Acevedo said at the press conference Monday that he’s currently preparing a motion to withhold the public release of the file while Freeman’s case goes to a grand jury. That, too, could take as long as a year to actually happen. A source tells the Chronicle that the District Attorney’s office may seek an indictment of criminally negligent homicide, which in Texas carries a maximum state jail sentence of two years.

For more on the story, see this week's issue of the Chronicle, on newsstands March 24.

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