Man Shot in Face

Mental illness possible factor in suspect's behavior

Forty-three-year-old Ernest Roberts was in the hospital last week, recovering from an injury caused by a single gunshot to the face fired by APD Officer William Heilman during an Oct. 31 altercation inside a North Central Austin duplex. According to an affidavit filed by APD Homicide Detective Manuel Fuentes, APD Cpl. Jamie Haver, a mental health officer, responded to a "nature unknown" call on Sam Rayburn Drive just after 11am, where she found Roberts (whom she described as clearly "off") pacing back and forth in a bedroom, yelling something about the FBI. Haver had called for backup, Fuentes wrote, and initiated a series of standard mental health questions, but was also stalling in order to wait for additional officers to arrive. When four-year veteran Officer Heilman arrived on the scene, Fuentes wrote, Roberts put his hands into the pockets of the jacket he was wearing; Heilman asked whether Haver had searched Roberts, but she hadn't. Heilman asked Roberts to take his hands out of his pockets, but he refused. "No, I can't do that, I'm not going to do that," he allegedly replied. Haver told Fuentes that the "hairs on the back of her neck went up," that she knew it was a bad situation – the three were in close proximity and Haver realized that Roberts could have a gun in his pocket. According to Fuentes (and to audio recorded by the portable microphone connected to Heilman's in-car video camera) the officers repeatedly asked Roberts to show his hands, and Roberts repeatedly refused, urging the police to shoot him. Heilman told Fuentes that he unclipped his Taser but "second-guessed" his decision, worried that the Taser wouldn't work through Roberts' jacket. With his hands still in his pockets, Roberts suddenly moved toward Haver and Heilman, Fuentes wrote, putting the trio within four feet of one another. Haver and Heilman had drawn their weapons and after Roberts made a motion that suggested to Heilman that he might be readying a weapon, Heilman fired a single shot, striking Roberts in the cheek.

Among the evidence collected from the scene were two knives – one with a 7.5-inch blade, the other a 4-inch blade – taken from Roberts' pockets, and two apparent suicide notes – one titled "Last will and testimony," the other a note to Roberts' son, apologizing for "what is about to [happen] to me," Fuentes wrote.

Roberts has been charged with first-degree aggravated assault for "knowingly [threatening the officers] with imminent bodily injury." Heilman has been placed on restricted duty pending the outcome of an internal review of the incident.

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Austin Police Department, APD, William Heilman, Jamie Haver, Earnest Roberts, mental health, officer-involved shooting, North Central Area Command, Manuel Fuentes, Mental Health Officer

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