The Austin Chronicle

Officer Fired for Unjustified Use of Deadly Force

By Jordan Smith, August 31, 2007, News

On Aug. 27, Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo indefinitely suspended (read: fired) nine-year veteran Officer Wayne Wil­liam­son, also a vet of the war in Iraq, for unjustified use of deadly force. In March, Williamson fired his gun several times into a crowded parking lot at a suspect who was fleeing from officers on foot from a fight in Southeast Austin. William­son's shots did not injure anybody, but one bullet did hit the back of a minivan parked near an HEB, with two children – ages 14 and 4 months – sitting inside. "It is pure luck that neither of the two children occupying the van were struck by one of the bullets," says Acevedo in a 10-page disciplinary memo.

Just after 8am on March 14, Williamson and Officer Chris Davis responded as backup officers to a report that two men, one possibly armed with a knife, were fighting outside a residence on Purple Sage Drive. While at a gas station at the intersection of Ed Bluestein and Purple Sage, William­son and Davis spotted the man who was allegedly carrying a knife ascending the spiral ramp of the footbridge that crosses Ed Bluestein. The officers got out of their patrol car, drew their weapons, and Williamson shouted, "Austin Police; stop, or I'll shoot," reads Acevedo's memo. In response, the suspect began to run up the ramp, across the road, and down the other side into an HEB parking lot. "It should be noted," Acevedo writes, "that neither officer observed the suspect with a weapon in his hand or on his person at this time."

While the suspect was descending the ramp into the parking lot, Williamson called after him again, threatening to shoot if he did not stop. This time, when the man failed to stop, Williamson carried through, firing his gun once, down toward the man, who continued to run through the parking lot. William­son fired twice more while standing at the top of the spiral ramp above the grocery-store lot. According to Acevedo's memo, after Williamson fired the third time, Davis looked up and yelled at Williamson to "holster his weapon." Davis caught up with the man in the parking lot. After he was arrested, the officers learned he had dropped the butter knife he was allegedly wielding back near the scene of the original fight on Purple Sage. Acevedo notes that the HEB parking lot was crowded and that as the scene unfolded, angry onlookers said they were more afraid of Williamson than of the man fleeing from the officers.

In all, Acevedo concluded Williamson's "use of force is not justified" under Texas law or Austin Police Department policy "because he did not have a reasonable belief that there was a substantial risk that the suspect would cause serious bodily injury to him or another if [the man's] arrest was delayed." Indeed, he noted that during the Aug. 25 disciplinary review board meeting, William­son admitted he "did not have sufficient facts to use deadly force, and his decision to shoot at this fleeing suspect was wrong."

Another officer-involved shooting occurred Monday, Aug. 27. Austin Police Officer Michael Metcalf shot and killed a man armed with a knife inside a unit of the University Canyon Apartments (4404 E. Oltorf) after police received a report that a child there had been stabbed. Metcalf, another officer, and two police cadets arrived at the apartment to find a handcuffed woman covered in blood holding a 3-year-old girl whose throat had been slashed. The woman gestured with her eyes toward the apartment's hallway. As the officers moved down the hallway, a 24-year-old man rounded the corner with a knife in his hand "in the low and ready" position, APD Chief Art Acevedo said at an evening press conference at the scene. The officers told the man to drop the knife; instead the man – now standing between eight and 10 feet from the officers – allegedly raised the knife, prompting Metcalf to fire his gun, killing the 24-year-old at the scene. At press time, the APD still was trying to reach the dead man's family and had not released his name. The 3-year-old girl was transported to Dell Children's Medical Center, where she remains in stable condition. At a press conference Aug. 28, APD Assistant Chief David Carter said that the girl is expected to make a full recovery, "and that's great news," he said. Carter also said that it was clear that domestic violence was implicated in the incident, that police had responded to previous complaints involving the couple, and that it appears the dead man was planning a murder-suicide plot that was foiled by the APD officers' timely response to the Monday evening incident.

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