From start to finish, chase lasted just 60 seconds

AUSTIN (KXAN) — One question after the tragedy at South by Southwest is whether Austin police followed its usual pursuit protocol. Austin police say the entire chase — from the traffic stop to the crash three blocks away — lasted 60 seconds.

They also said the whole sequence instantly became a “highly unpredictable situation.”

When a ‘routine’ stop turns bad, any police officer will tell you they have a second or two to react. Response training takes over when the threat to someone’s life becomes imminent.

Chief Art Acevedo says the officer in Thursday’s case was in his patrol car and started the two-block pursuit with the wrong-way driver at Ninth Street and Red River, right after the suspect mowed down anyone in his path.

“(The officer) broadcast that the suspect had driven through and struck a series of pedestrians,” Acevedo said, “at which point he told dispatch he was going to engage in a pursuit.

“He then activated his sirens and started chasing the suspect, who crashed at 11th and Red River and immediately fled on foot.”

The 2013 Austin police policy manual lists 12 factors to consider before starting a pursuit. Paramount among them is:

  • The importance of protecting the public’s safety
  • The amount of vehicle and pedestrian traffic nearby
  • Vehicle speeds

This would be no ordinary chase. There was little time to even shout a warning to those in the way, who were downtown to experience SXSW.

“We had a member of the APD working barricade control who was actually forced to jump out of the way so he would not be hit,” Acevedo said.

Policy also states warning shots are prohibited and disabling a moving vehicle by firearm is allowed “only under extraordinary circumstances.”

Owens being taken down by a stun gun instead of being shot also came down to an instantaneous choice.

The policy about when an officer can use immediate deadly force says: “It’s justified to protect himself or others from what (the officer) believes would be a ‘imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury.”

Dash cam video of the pursuit will help show how the officer responded.

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