Tight deadline in David Joseph shooting investigation

Memorial for David Joseph in his neighborhood on Yager Lane. (KXAN Photo/Sophia Beausoleil)
Memorial for David Joseph in his neighborhood on Yager Lane. (KXAN Photo/Sophia Beausoleil)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Investigators have a tight timeline to pinpoint exactly what happened in Monday’s police shooting.

David Joseph, 17, died on Monday after Officer Geoffrey Freeman shot the teen in the 12000 block of Natures Bend. Police say the teenager was nude and acting aggressively when he charged toward Freeman. The teenager was unarmed.

On Thursday, Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo promised to complete the internal investigation within 30 days, after community organizers from the Austin Justice Coalition, Black Lives Matter Austin and others demanded a quick and thorough investigation.

During a Thursday protest outside city hall, Austin Mayor Steve Adler met with protesters and echoed the same request: To have the investigation completed before the standard 45 days in deadly police shootings.

Part of the investigation will include the police monitor’s oversight. “My job there is to oversee the process and make sure that the gathering of evidence, everything is quite frankly on the up and up,” explained Police Monitor Margo Frasier.

The former Travis County Sheriff from 1997 to 2004, Frasier said whenever there’s an officer involved shooting, she’s immediately called to the scene.

“It allows me to personally be able to see the situation. Sometimes description or even film doesn’t do it justice as far as trying to figure out what happened,” explained Frasier.

She participates in the walk-through with the officer involved, in this case Officer Freeman, and will be hands-on in the internal affairs investigation.

“We will be involved in the internal affairs investigation as far as being at every interview, having access to the complete file as far as forensic and medical examiners report everything that there is,” said Frasier.

Because of the short timeline, Fraiser said she expects interviews with witnesses and Officer Freeman to possibly start next week.

“It’s tough to do it in 30 days because it’s not only doing the interview, somebody has to write this thing up, the proper analysis, but I’m confident we can meet that and I know that we’re going to do everything on our side to make sure we do,” said Frasier.

She said her office has put aside other projects to focus on this case for the coming weeks.

Frasier says APD’s Special Investigation Unit interviewed Freeman on Thursday. She says she was not in the room, but will sit in on interviews once the internal affairs investigation begins. That’s expected as soon as next week.

Other big profile investigations, like when Larry Jackson Jr. was shot and killed by former Austin Police Detective Charles Kleinert, were completed in less than 45 days according to Frasier.

“We completed that within 45 days and that quite frankly had more witnesses than I anticipate this case having,” said Frasier.

Once the internal investigation is complete, Frasier will give her recommendation to Chief Acevedo whether Officer Freeman acted within APD’s policy and if there should be any punishment.

There’s also a Citizen’s Review Panel made up of seven volunteers who will view the entire report, including evidence, statements and footage. The group, under an agreement between the city of Austin and the Austin Police Association, can make a recommendation as to whether or not policy was followed. They can also make policy change recommendations.

But even with the recommendations from Frasier and the Citizen’s Review Panel, ultimately it’s up to Chief Acevedo to make disciplinary decisions.

The police monitor said even though her office is involved in the internal affairs investigation, it does not take part in the Special Investigation Unit’s (SIU) investigation. The SIU is a department within APD and investigates officers involved in incidents and includes the criminal investigation.

Members from the Black Likes Matter Austin and the Austin Justice Coalition also demanded an outside investigation, but Chief Acevedo said that wouldn’t happen as of now. The chief and City Manager Marc Ott are the only two who have the power to order an outside agency to investigate if they wanted to.

Association critical of idea of quick investigation

The Austin Police Association said Friday that it supports the police department working with community leaders, but doesn’t think the department or city should  “yield to outside pressure” finish the investigation too quickly.

“The chief and the mayor, they really made a big mistake yesterday, you don’t put a timeline on an investigation that is so critical to the police department and the citizens of Austin,” said Ken Casaday, Austin Police Association President. “If it’s done in 25 days, okay, if it’s done in 45 days that’s okay too, we want a thorough investigation. We don’t want our detectives or anybody that investigates this rushed.”

“I would just ask people to be patient these kind of things have happened in the past, we’ve had officers be cleared, we’ve had officers that have been indicted, we just want a thorough process to make sure this is done right.”

Complete Coverage: The death of David Joseph

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