Sixth Street Jaywalker Partially Vindicated in Federal Court
Jury finds cop used excessive force
On Friday, two years and two months after being made subject to a very public and violent arrest for the high crime of jaywalking across Sixth Street at night, Jeremy King won a partial victory when a federal jury acknowledged that one of the officers involved used excessive force during the arrest. However, the jury also noted that the officer's protected status as a civil service employee shields him from any damages, and denied King's claim that he and a friend, Lourdes Glen, were racially profiled during the 2015 incident. King and his friend Matthew Wallace were the only African-Americans in a group of jaywalking pedestrians on the night of their arrest, and were the only ones police stopped. (Glen is Latina.)
King released a lengthy statement over the weekend, evoking Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and asking that individuals "recall his dream and realize our current reality. … Although racism today is less direct, it is still present and something we can address individually within ourselves, privately with our families, and publicly with friends and colleagues." Instead of placing his focus on the outcome of the case, King believes "what matters now is making ourselves aware of the areas we need to improve. Making sure we preserve, protect, purify and solidify these opportunities for generations to come."
King, Glen, and their friends were Downtown on the night of Nov. 6, 2015, and crossing Red River at Sixth when a group of officers – among them Richard Munoz, Brian Huckaby, Vanessa Jimenez, and Gustave Gallenkamp, all of whom were named in the suit, though only Gallenkamp was found to have used excessive force – approached, grabbed King and Wallace, and violently detained them via a combination of a nearby building, fists, and knees. King's lawsuit claimed he "displayed no indication of posing an immediate threat to anyone's safety, nor was he actively resisting or attempting to evade arrest when the officers suddenly leap on him." (King, Glen, and Wallace were all taken to the Downtown jail, though King and Glen were released early the next morning. King never faced any formal charges. Glen was officially cited with jaywalking.) Over the weeklong trial, defense counsel blamed the escalation on King and his friends, saying that the group could have gotten off with a ticket had they followed police orders. A public information officer at APD said the department will review the verdict and decide on appropriate action, if any.
King's attorney Brian McGiverin used the case as an opportunity to broadly note the deficiencies in APD's internal accountability process. He called the verdict "an important victory, though admittedly only a partial one." The ruling, he said, "shows that police were not policing themselves.
"When we filed this lawsuit, APD's Internal Affairs had already 'exonerated' these officers. The verdict shows that the City's internal systems for accountability were inadequate. It is more proof that the community must continue pressing for a truly independent system for oversight and accountability for police misconduct."
The value of the oversight and accountability provisions in the police contract, which outline the capabilities of the Office of the Police Monitor and the now-defunct Citizen Review Panel, have been a major point of contention between activists and police interests over the past year, as the city and Austin Police Association negotiated a new contract, then saw it rejected by City Council. APA leaders painted that rejection as a massive loss for both sides, but the activists have said not only that those review measures are so toothless as to be essentially worthless, but also that they detrimentally rely on the results of those shadowy Internal Affairs investigations.