Prisoner escape leads to pair of officer suspensions

AUSTIN (KXAN) – Two Austin police officers are off the job starting Wednesday for a total of 11 unpaid days each after allowing a prisoner to escape last October.

The prisoner was being transported from the emergency room at University Medical Center Brackenridge on Oct. 13, 2013, to the Travis County Jail.

A disciplinary memo shows Officer Leonard Wheeler and the driver, Officer Shawn Williams, failed to seatbelt the handcuffed prisoner. Additionally, neither officer checked the latch and lock on the transport van’s door handle, allowing the prisoner to escape.

Further more, neither officer followed protocol when they did not immediately alert their chain of command of the escape. The memo states that lapse in judgment put the public at risk.

Ofc. Wheeler only told his sergeant what had happened after the prisoner had been recaptured.

This is not the first time Wheeler has been reprimanded. Austin’s police chief suspended Wheeler for seven days last October for failing to comply with APD policies on the care and transport of prisoners. That time he failed to turn on his body camera while transporting a prisoner, something he again failed to do after the prisoner escape in October, the newest memo shows.

“In this incident,” Chief Art Acevedo wrote, “Officer Wheeler has again failed to satisfactorily perform his duties.”

The chief also wrote the new suspension memo may be taken into consideration when Wheeler comes up for promotion.

This also is Williams’ second recent suspension. The chief pulled him off the job Aug. 15 for six days for neglect of duty after he failed to write up a two-car crash that involved a minor who had been drinking alcohol, according to the disciplinary memo released then.

In justifying the new 11-day suspension, the chief noted October’s prisoner escape happened just two months after Williams finished his first suspension. He, too, could be bypassed for future promotion according the chief’s memo.

Each officer can appeal the new suspensions within 10 days.

City of Austin employee records show Ofc. Leonard Wheeler, 33, has been with APD  since November 2005. Ofc. Shawn Williams, 30, has been with APD since September 2006. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Users who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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