Public failed to call Austin 911 to report two separate crimes within days

Men and women across Austin offer to wash drivers' windshields with the hope of money in return. (KXAN Photo/Tom Rapp)
Men and women across Austin offer to wash drivers' windshields with the hope of money in return. (KXAN Photo/Tom Rapp)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin police say they were not notified of an aggressive encounter Thursday between a panhandler offering to wash car windows and a driver until the media asked law enforcement for information about the video that had already circulated on social media. In fact, police said no one reported it until more than three hours had passed.

The video, taken around 4:30 p.m. at US 183 and Interstate 35, starts when the driver is already out his car. The woman who took the video tells KXAN the panhandler simply asked the driver if he could wash his windshield. Then, things escalated. The driver eventually shoves the panhandler into a lane of traffic.

The Austin Police Department says someone called 911 around 7:30 p.m. By that time, it was too late.

“Everybody was gone from the scene. So, there was no victim. No suspect. We don’t really have a record of anything that happened out there other than the video,” explained Senior Police Officer Veneza Bremner. “If there’s no call to us and we don’t locate a victim to give us a report of what happened, there’s no crime that occurred.”

That’s why she says calling for emergency assistance should be the priority.

“When you think that you should get on your phone and video an incident, you should probably be dialing 911 first,” said Bremner. “If this man had been seriously injured or somebody had been seriously injured or hurt, we wouldn’t have any information to go on.”

KXAN spoke with a friend of the man thrown into traffic who says he wasn’t there when the man was attacked, but he hopes he’s alright. He, too, asks drivers if he can wash their windshield, with the hope of receiving money in return.

Quincy Hill says they are all part of a larger community. “It’s one big family. It’s a bunch of us out here, but it’s like we all come together. We feed each other, help each other, clothe each other and have warned each other out here,” said Hill.

Part of being in that community, he says, is dealing with the challenges they face every day trying to earn a living by washing windshields.

“Sometimes things happen to people out here that we can’t justify. I’ve been flicked off. I’d a been cussed at. You get some characters sometimes out here. You get those who don’t like us,” said Hill, who understands that some people don’t want their vehicle touched.

If someone tells Hill they don’t want his services, he steps aside. “That’s why I always ask out of respect, ’cause you never know if somebody’s having a bad day.”

This marks the second incident in as much as a week that witnesses to a crime have failed to call 911 to report it to police.

Police say 42-year-old Alonso Solis may not be alive today if it weren’t for a security guard who found him then gave him first aid after he became the victim of a drive-by shooting. Solis was bicycling down the 6300 block of East Riverside Drive when he was hit by a random shotgun blast.

“It was just a little before midnight. There was people around there that would have heard the shots, at least, or heard the shot from a shotgun. Nobody called 911,” Bremner said.

Police say you can remain anonymous, if you desire, when calling 911 to report a crime. That is unless you witness something like a murder wherein detectives may need to ask you questions further to investigate the case.

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