Officer will not be charged for pepper spraying man during SXSW

Austin Police pepper spray incident (Peaceful Streets Youtube Photo)
Austin Police pepper spray incident (Peaceful Streets Youtube Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Police Officer Cameron Caldwell will not face criminal charges for pepper spraying a man downtown during South by Southwest this year. A Travis County grand jury made the decision Thursday after hearing nine hours of testimony from four witnesses.

Peaceful Streets Project, which tracks police activity in Austin, took video of the incident, resulting in the officer’s suspension for 45 days, ending on Oct. 14. Caldwell remains under a year’s probation within the department. Any additional violations during the probation could lead to his firing.

At around 1:30 a.m. on March 17, Tyrone Wilson was arrested for public intoxication and held inside a temporary holding facility at Caritas of Austin, 611 Neches St.

Wilson ignored officers’ commands to stay seated and struggled with police, who then shocked Wilson with a stun gun, according to the Travis County district attorney. He was then carried to a transport van outside the facility.

Austin Police pepper spray incident (Peaceful Streets Youtube Photo)
Austin Police pepper spray incident (Peaceful Streets Youtube Photo)

Wilson began kicking the van door. Officer Caldwell ordered Wilson multiple times to stop kicking the door, the district attorney said. After about 5 minutes, Caldwell opened the door and pepper sprayed Wilson in the face. New video released Thursday, posted above, shows a new angle of the incident (at the 2:20 mark).

Wilson was later provided water and taken to University Medical Center Brackenridge before being booked into the Travis County Jail for public intoxication and resisting arrest.

Former Police Chief Art Acevedo said Caldwell’s use of pepper spray was “not objectively reasonable” and he had “lesser means” of controlling the man. During his disciplinary review hearing, Caldwell acknowledged he should have handled the situation differently, “expressing sincere regret and contrition,” a disciplinary memo said.

In October, two downtown police supervisors were suspended and demoted for their failure to complete a review of the incident.