Officer suspended for failing to find gun on suspect who killed himself

Zachary Anam (Courtesy: Anam Family Photo)
Zachary Anam (Courtesy: Anam Family Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — An Austin police officer who failed to find a loaded gun on a shoplifting suspect he arrested, who then ended up using the gun to commit suicide while handcuffed in a patrol car, has been suspended.

Officer Iven Wall, a 10-year veteran with the Austin Police Department, has been suspended for 20 days starting June 22. Zachary Anam’s parents, Sayeed and Cara, say they are severely disappointed with the “minimal discipline” imposed on Officer Wall. “A 20-day suspension is like a vacation,” said Sayeed.

On Jan. 8, Officer Wall and Officer John Ricker were called to the Macy’s at Barton Creek Square Mall to assist with a shoplifting suspect, identified as 19-year-old Anam, who had been detained by a Macy’s loss prevention officer. According to the memo, Loss Prevention personnel searched Anam and placed him in a holding room while they waited for police.

When Officer Wall arrived, he went into the holding room and performed a pat-down of Anam where he also switched out the handcuffs to an APD issued set, all while Officer Ricker stood nearby. According to the memo, Officer Wall said he “only patted the subject down” instead of doing a complete search. He acknowledged this lapse was a “significant error” on his part. The officer also said he threw away the box cutter that Anam was using to steal items in the store, instead of collecting it as evidence.

Anam was then handcuffed behind his back and placed into the back of Officer Wall’s patrol car, with the seat belt on. As the officer transported Anam to APD Headquarters, Anam began having conversations with the officer about being suicidal, said Interim Chief of Police Brian Manley in January. During transport, Anam was able to remove his seatbelt.

When the suspect indicated he had the means to commit suicide, Officer Wall relayed the message over the radio and immediately got out of the vehicle and left it parked at the corner of West Sixth Street and Lavaca Street. Officer Ricker, who was following Officer Wall, also got out of his vehicle to help make sure the public was out of harm’s way. During that time was when police say Anam shot himself; he died the following day. Police believe the firearm was concealed along the right side of his waistband.

At the time, the interim chief said the department has “very strict” policies when it comes to searching an individual. “If you take custody of an individual that is under arrest from another officer, even if they have already searched them, you are still required to search them.”

According to the disciplinary memo, Officer Wall could not offer an explanation as to why he deviated from normal practice, although he knew it was his responsibility to conduct a complete and thorough search. He said he has “substantial regrets for his mistakes” but hopes others will learn from his mistakes.

“In light of the many instances in which APD has missed weapons in the past, this appears to be a systemic failure on the part of APD,” said the family’s attorney, Jeff Edwards. “Unless Chief Manley commits to retraining every officer so that they learn how to properly frisk suspects, this will happen to someone else. A 20-day suspension does little to nothing to correct the issue going forward and is insulting to the Anam family, who lost their only son.”

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