Travis County DA launches Civil Rights Unit to review use of force cases

A woman was shot and killed in an officer involved shooting on Manchaca Road near Keilbar Lane in south Austin. Feb. 22, 2017 (Courtesy/Laura Cavazos)
A woman was shot and killed in an officer involved shooting on Manchaca Road near Keilbar Lane in south Austin. Feb. 22, 2017 (Courtesy/Laura Cavazos)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Following Wednesday’s officer-involved shooting where a woman was shot and killed, the Travis County District Attorney’s Office says they are doing their own independent investigation on the criminal side, to make sure the officer’s actions were justified. The investigation will be handled by the Civil Rights Unit at the DA’s office.

District Attorney Margaret Moore says even though the Austin Police Department’s standard Special Investigation’s Unit will review the case, she wants an independent review. The Civil Rights Unit responds to the scene, observe all of the investigation that takes place and they are able to ask questions and see what [police are] doing.

“My goal is to give this community some assurance that these investigations do not just involve an examination by the police department, but also involve an independent evaluation by the district attorney,” Moore says. There was a similar unit under Rosemary Lehmberg, but since taking office, Moore has restructured the unit, gave it a new name and specified the unit’s scope. The unit will also respond to any use of force cases.

Moore says she knows there are community groups, like the Austin Justice Coalition, who are very critical of police actions.

“It’s sad that this officer and these police departments are not taking the time to learn how to react to these type of situations as opposed to just killing people,” Chas Moore, president and founder of the Austin Justice Coalition says. “Why are we not talking about when people of color are displaying signs of mental illness or something that is crying out, something is wrong here, we kill them.”

Moore says her office is committed to taking an objective look at what unfolded to determine if an officer committed a crime.

“We go to the review that takes place of everything that was gathered as evidence and then that ultimately, it is put into a report and turned over to us for evaluations to the presentation to a grand jury,” Moore explains.

There officer involved is facing other investigations. APD Internal Affairs will look to figure out if they believe a policy violation took place. The Austin Police Monitor’s Office will serve as a watchdog to monitor their internal affairs investigation raises no questions.

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