AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin police are now tasked with launching an in-custody death investigation to determine what went wrong during the arrest and custody process that led to a teen shooting and killing himself in the back of a patrol car.
The man is 19-year-old Zachary Anam, a 2015 graduate of Bowie High School. While Anam had some run-ins with police in recent years, friends say that wasn’t the person they knew.
Anam’s friends say he was a member of the wrestling team at least through his junior year.
“He was a big kind of mentor to me and for wrestling just teaching me stuff when I was a kid and then when I got in the high school,” said James Hollon, now a senior at Bowie High School. “Whenever we would hang out, he opened up from the heart, he didn’t really hide anything.”
Other friends have echoed similar messages on Facebook. Sarah Nicolee said, “He was definitely a beautiful soul. I’m still trying to wrap my head around all of this, but Zac was such a great guy and the world deserves to know that he was more than what old crime reports put him out to be.”
Other high school friends describe him as the “coolest” person in high school. “He was a really funny guy, always good with the girls,” Hollon remembers. “He taught me a lot about that stuff.”
Hollon lost touch with Anam, but the two friends reconnected last summer. Around that time, the Austin Police Department charged him with engaging in organized crime in connection to numerous vehicle thefts and home burglaries.
“He seemed like he was doing well. I knew some of the stuff that had already happened to him at that time and that he had done, but I didn’t look at him any different from what I had known him,” Hollon said.
Hollon, who is graduating in May, plans to become a police officer. “I’ve always wanted to be a police officer since I can remember. But, I see a lot of kids that I grew up with, they started dropping out of high school and selling drugs and it kind of makes me want to go out there and help people out.”
Hollon tells us he’ll carry the good memories of his friend and mentor Anam, hoping one day he’ll be the change someone else needs.
Anam’s family lives in the Circle C area of Austin. On Tuesday afternoon, the family released the following statement: “Zac was a beautiful kid, who loved his family and friends very much, and was loved by them just as much. He was born in Connecticut and raised in Austin, and graduated from Bowie High School in 2015, where he was on the varsity football and wrestling teams. We are devastated by the loss of our wonderful son, and very grateful for the overwhelming outpouring from the many friends of Zac who have expressed their love of him and of us.”
Interim Chief of Police says