AUSTIN (KXAN) - Police Monitor Margo Frasier testified in federal court Monday that she recommended that the officer who shot and killed Byron Carter Jr. two years ago be suspended for at least 90 days.
She also said during the first day of a civil trial in the Carter shooting that although it was "objectively reasonable" for the officer to want to stop the car Carter and a friend were in because an officer was in danger, Police Officer Nathan Wagner violated police policy in the manner in which he fired his weapon.
Frasier's testimony in U.S. Judge Lee Yeakel's court came before the jury was seated in the lawsuit filed by Carter's family. The family contends that police had no cause to suspect Carter and a companion of wrongdoing when they initiated the action that culminated in the May 30, 2011 shooting.
Wagner and his partner, Officer Jeffrey Rodriguez, were not disciplined in the incident that happened around 11 p.m. in the 800 block of East Eighth Street. The officers were patrolling the area in response to recent reports of car burglaries.
Robert Icenhauer-Ramirez, Nathan Wagner's attorney, has said his client acted professionally, and used deadly force only when the car Carter was in came at him and his partner.
In a memo presented in the courtroom, Frasier said firing without knowing for certain who was inside the car was irresponsible.
"At least, he ought to have been aware of the substantial and unjustifiable risk created by firing into the vehicle under those circumstances that he might strike the passenger," the memo said.
Neither Wagner nor Rodriguez was disciplined in the shooting. Frasier said she also recommended that Wagner receive additional training.
The Citizen Review Panel that looked into the shooting said the officers profiled the 20-year-old Carter and his companion because the were African-American, KXAN reported last month.
A grand jury, which did not have access to the Citizen Review Board report, declined to make an indictment.
The report is kept sealed under the meet-and-confer agreement because the action did not result in a one-day or longer suspension of the officers.
Police Chief Art Acevedo also testified with the jury outside of the courtroom. He defended his decision not to suspend the officers, saying the review panel's opinions were not supported by the facts..
In addition to Frasier's testimony, a jury was seated on Monday. More pretrial action outside of the jury's view is expected on Tuesday, Yeakel is expected to rule on whether the police monitor's recommendations and the report from the Citizen Review Board will be admitted into evidence.
Opening arguments are also likely to begin.`
According to court documents filed by Byron Carter Sr.'s attorney in the lawsuit, Wagner and Rodriguez admitted in depositions that Carter and his friend were not committing any crimes when they spotted them. The officers were looking for car burglars and thought the two were acting suspiciously.
The court documents show the officers said it was dark, they did not use flashlights, and used the "cover of the night" and the "element of surprise" to sneak-up on Carter and the juvenile driver.
The officers also claim the juvenile driver used the car as a deadly weapon and tried to run them over, and the car hit Officer Rodriguez at 25 mph and dragged him under the car, which Acevedo publicly affirmed.
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