APD Officer Freeman Fired

Geoffrey Freeman "indefinitely suspended" for David Joseph shooting

Geoffrey Freeman
Geoffrey Freeman

APD Officer Geoffrey Freeman has received an indefinite suspension for the shooting death of 17-year-old David Joseph, according to an email from John Moritz, a spokesman for the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas. The city of Austin has yet to produce a disciplinary memo from Police Chief Art Acevedo corroborating the information.

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 on the 12000 block of Nature's 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.”

The six weeks since Joseph’s death has seen the 17-year-old be hoisted as representative for two different, disparate causes. Activists and community members have spoken of him as indicative of the black struggle with modern law enforcement: a naked, alone, and unarmed teeanger gunned down by police in the middle of the street in broad daylight. The perspective has been voiced at demonstrations throughout the city and Downtown at City Hall, where Mayor Steve Adler joined in a peaceful protest to call for policy reform as APD – “both with respect to mental health responses and also with respect to our use of force.”

CLEAT and the local police association have viewed Joseph’s death as an unwelcome byproduct of insufficient training – a body lost because of the department’s willingness to understaff neighborhood patrol shifts (or current troubles recruiting new officers). Grant Goodwin, CLEAT’s attorney representing Freeman since the shooting, even said so much at a Feb. 16 press conference put on by the local union. “The outcome will be the same without further staffing and training. When you are in fear of your life, and that it could be taken, you have the right to use the amount of force necessary to repel the threat.”

Goodwin doubled down on Friday when he delivered a letter to Acevedo informing the chief that Freeman would waive his rights to a disciplinary hearing set for Monday (today). Freeman would instead “stand by the statements to the special investigation and internal affairs made during the exhaustive interviews that spanned over multiple hours.”

“Your statements and conduct prior to the completion of the investigation, including statements made to the media, activists, APD cadets, and officers indicate that you are passing judgment on this case without regard to APD training, policy, or the integrity of the investigation,” Goodwin wrote, chastising Acevedo.

To that point, APA president Ken Casaday has issued concerns that Acevedo is choosing to make Joseph’s death too representative. From his pledge to conduct an Internal Affairs investigation within 30 days of the shooting to his invitation to black activists from the NAACP, Black Lives Matter, Austin Justice Coalition, and Measure ATX to the speak at a Feb. 11 press conference in which Acevedo detailed the events of Joseph’s shooting, the APA’s belief has been that Acevedo is guilty of politicizing this particular incident.

Freeman will appeal the decision, according to CLEAT. A statement from the union’s president Todd Harrison, a sergeant with APD, reads as follows: “Rather than taking the time needed to conduct a thorough and impartial investigation into the tragic events of Feb. 8, 2016, Chief Acevedo instead chose to send signals to the news media, political activists, rank-and-file police officers and even a cadet class that he intended to fire Officer Freeman no matter what the facts in the case might show.”

The union’s executive director Charley Wilkison has more: “CLEAT will use the resources necessary to ensure that Officer Freeman’s good name is restored and that he will be back to work serving the community he’s called home all of his life.”

Chief Acevedo will hold a press conference at APD Headquarters at 4:45pm today. The Chronicle will continue to update this story as new information comes our way.

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