Family of Man Killed by APD Seeks Answers

The parents of Alex Gonzales file complaint with the Office of Police Oversight

(l-r) Alex Gonzales' mother, Elizabeth; father, Alex Gonzales Sr.; and sister Angel attend a vigil for Gonzales on Feb. 1 (Photo by John Anderson)

The parents of Alex Gonzales, killed by police on Jan. 5, are pressing the Austin Police Department for more information about their son's death. Last week, they filed a complaint with the Office of Police Oversight, which will be forwarded to APD's Internal Affairs division for investigation.

"My world has been shattered," Alex Gon­zales' mother, Elizabeth, said of her life since the loss of her son, at a press conference held on Saturday, Jan. 30. "He was my everything ... I'm going to make a difference and [APD] is going to remember my son's name. This has got to stop."

Alex Gonzales’ family and other observers already have many unanswered questions due to inconsistencies in what can be seen in bystander video of the shooting.

Internal Affairs is already investigating to determine whether the officer believed to have killed Gonzales, Luis Serrato, or the still-unidentified off-duty officer who fired on Gonzales' vehicle when the altercation began violated department policy in doing so. The OPO complaint will allow the Gon­zal­es family to be updated on the progress of IA's probe; once IA has completed its work, the family will receive a full briefing on the investigation and whether either officer was disciplined by police Chief Brian Manley.

The family and other observers already have many unanswered questions due to inconsistencies between what can be seen in bystander video of the shooting, Manley's description of the events to reporters the night of the shooting, and the death-in-custody report he was required to submit to the Texas Attorney General's Office. In the A.G. report, Manley says that Gonzales physically attempted to assault officers. However, the chief's public statements indicated the off-duty officer fired into Gonzales' vehicle before it came to a stop, after Gonzales allegedly brandished a weapon. Bystander video, which captures events from that point (before Serrato and other officers arrived), does not show Gonzales attempting to assault any officers at the scene.

Serrato is the only officer named in Travis County D.A. José Garza's latest update to the community on criminal inquiries against law enforcement officers. The D.A.'s policy is not to identify officers under active investigation unless the information is publicly available elsewhere. The absence of the off-duty officer's name from the list led the Gonzales family to believe he is not being investigated. However, according to the D.A.'s Office, the next report from the Civil Rights Unit – coming by the end of next week – reflects that the off-duty officer's conduct is also under review.

"The family wants to know what happened," said Rebecca Webber, who is representing the Gonzales family. "They want accountability, they want transparency through this process, and whatever measure of justice can come out of something like this."

APD and OPO are working to produce a "critical incident community briefing" video for this shooting, as called for by city policy, which they expect to release in early March. That video could include audio from the 911 call made by the off-duty officer after he shot at the Gonzales vehicle, possibly injuring Gonzales or his girlfriend, Jessica Arellano, in the passenger seat, as well as video captured by dashboard and body-worn cameras from the uniformed officers at the scene. Other than this footage and testimony from the officers involved, Arellano is the only source of information about what happened that night. Her attorney, Jeff Edwards, reports that she is recovering from injuries sustained that night, but declined to provide more information at this time.

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Austin Police Department, Alex Gonzales, Brian Manley, Elizabeth Gonzales, Office of Police Oversight, Luis Serrato, Texas Attorney General's Office, Travis County District Attorney's Office, José Garza, critical incident videos, critical incident community briefing videos, Rebecca Webber, APD Internal Affairs, Jessica Arellano, Jeff Edwards

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