NEW ORLEANS, La. (KXAN) — A federal appeals court heard arguments Tuesday in the manslaughter case involving former Austin police officer Charles Kleinert.
A Texas Grand Jury indicted Kleinert on manslaughter charges in May 2014. Before the case went to trial, a federal judge dismissed it, saying Kleinert was immune to state prosecution because he was part of an FBI task force carrying out a bank robbery investigation at the time Larry Jackson, Jr. was killed. Now, the state is appealing.
Former Austin police Det. Kleinert shot and killed Jackson in July of 2013. The shooting happened after Jackson, 32, appeared at the scene of a bank robbery in the 1500 block of West 35th Street in Central Austin. Police say Jackson fled the scene as Kleinert questioned him, prompting the officer to chase him. Jackson was shot during the struggle that ensued underneath the Shoal Creek bridge.
According to a ruling by U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel in 2015, at the time of Larry Jackson Jr.’s deadly shooting Kleinert “acted as a federal officer.” The ruling goes onto say, “In each case, the officer was performing a federal function when the factual chain of events began.”
During federal court proceedings, the State tried to convince Judge Yeakel that Kleinert’s actions were not called for. The prosecutors posed the question as to whether or not Kleinert needed to even stop Jackson in the first place.
The three judge panel must now rule if Kleinert’s immunity should be upheld or reversed.
KXAN spoke Tuesday with Adam Loewy, the attorney who represented Jackson’s family in their lawsuit against the city of Austin.
“If [Kleinert’s immunity ruling] is reversed, it will be sent back and Charles Kleinert will be prosecuted for manslaughter. If it is upheld, that means the case is likely over, unless the state wants to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court,” explained Loewy.
Jackson’s family wants the ruling reversed.
“We believe that the judge’s ruling was flawed on a number of levels,” said Loewy. “We believe that Charles Kleinert should be prosecuted just like any other regular citizen would have been in this situation.”
Judge Yeakel says Kleinert was acting as a federal officer “from his first to last encounter with Jackson. At all times, Kleinert was attempting to detain and arrest Jackson for committing federal offenses.”
Although the state indictment is dismissed and Kleinert has been granted immunity when it comes to state prosecution, the possibility for federal prosecution still exists.
The Austin Police Association President Ken Casaday was in attendance Tuesday in New Orleans. Casaday says the hearing went well for Kleinert and that “the city really struggled with their argument.”
“We believe that today’s hearing was very one-sided, in favor of Officer Kleinert, and we expect to have a favorable ruling,” said Casaday. “Everyone feels horrible that this happened. It was an accident and we felt horrible for the Jackson family and all they’ve had to go through.”