Austin agrees to $3.25M settlement with David Joseph’s family

David Joseph (Courtesy: Claudia -- Family Friend)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Austin City Council has approved a multi-million dollar settlement with the mother of David Joseph, a naked unarmed teen who was shot and killed by an Austin police officer last year.

David Joseph’s mother, Ketty Sully, filed a wrongful death lawsuit in June 2016. The family’s attorney, Jeff Edwards, originally said his client would not settle for a “token settlement.” The suit claimed the city did not train officers on using other methods that are not deadly force, they have not addressed an under-staffing issue and the police are discriminating against minorities.

The city agreed to a $3.25 million settlement — the largest in the city’s history involving an officer-involved shooting — at Thursday’s council meeting and city’s law department is currently working on drafting the agreement now.

“It is our sincere hope that the public nature of the settlement will make future police shootings less likely,” said Sully in a statement. “David was a wonderful son and a loving brother. He will remain in our hearts forever.”

The statement goes on to say, “While my family appreciates the professionalism and dignity with which David’s wrongful death claim was handled by the City, the Police Department, and all the lawyers involved, my family wishes to remind everyone that no amount of money could ever make up for what happened.”

Officer Geoffrey Freeman was the first to arrive on the scene at the 12000 block of Natures Bend on Feb. 8, 2016. Stepping out of the car, Freeman yelled out for Joseph to “stop.” A press release by the Travis County District Attorney states Freeman stopped his patrol car 100 feet away from Joseph, who was in the middle of the street. Freeman then exited his car and drew his gun. In a verbal statement given by Freeman at the scene, when he encountered Joseph he gave him several commands to stop, but Joseph continued to “charge” towards him. The Austin Police Department’s Chief of Staff Brian Manley said it was then that Freeman fired two shots at Joseph — which occurred out of frame from the officer’s dash camera — killing him

Freeman was fired from the department a few months after the incident. The city paid Freeman $35,000 in exchange for the agreement to not file further. He will never work for the Austin Police Department again. A grand jury said Freeman’s actions in the shooting were justified and did not charge him in the deadly shooting.

Before this settlement, the largest settlement for an officer involved shooting for the city was in 2014 where the city paid $1.25 million to the children of Larry Jackson Jr. Austin Police Detective Charles Kleinert shot and killed Jackson in July of 2013 near Shoal Creek in central Austin. The detective said he accidentally fired his gun after struggling with Jackson, who did not have a weapon. Last year, the city approved a separate $600,000 settlement with Jackson’s parents.