AUSTIN (KXAN) - On the night 20-year-old Byron Carter was shot and killed by an Austin police officer, the 20-year-old African-American was the victim of racial profiling and there was no cause to suspect him of wrongdoing.
That detail and others about the findings of the Citizen Review Panel were provided to KXAN News on Thursday by a source with knowledge of the report that is kept secret under the city's "Meet and Confer Agreement" with the Austin and the Austin Police Association.
KXAN also learned that the seven-member panel said Officer Nathan Wagner "recklessly caused the death" of Carter by employing "unreasonable use of deadly force." The panel recommended that he be fired, according to information provided to KXAN.
Carter was shot several times while he was sitting in the passenger seat of a car on the night of May 30, 2011. Carter's 16-year-old companion, who was in the driver's seat, was wounded by police gunfire.
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, said his client acted professionally, and used deadly force only when the car Carter was in came at him and his partner.
"He sees his partner go down in front of that car, and believes he is underneath the car being dragged," the lawyer told KXAN. "And so his goal is to fire into that car and stop that driver from killing Jeff Rodriguez."
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 defended his decision not to suspend, saying he had more access to the details of the shooting that either Police Monitor Margo Frasier or the review panel.
"The Citizen Review Panel gets a brief presentation and they look at a very small piece of the investigation," the chief told KXAN, adding that no hearing with witnesses is held and that officers do not appear before the panel. "That's not the process. So I have the benefit of looking at all of the evidence."
The Citizen's Review Panel is made up of volunteers, appointed by City Manager Marc Ott with input from the City Council, and hears disputed internal affairs cases and makes its own recommendation on discipline for an officer.
According to information provide by KXAN's source, the review panel determined that both officers racially profiled Carter and the teenager. Also, KXAN has learned, the review board had examined six cases previous cases of officer-involved shootings that ended with a civilian being killed and had never recommended discipline.
On Friday, Acevedo issued a statement elaborating on his interview with KXAN:
"The Austin Police Department conducted exhaustive criminal and administrative investigations into this critical incident," the chief said. "All of the evidence was presented to a Travis County Grand Jury comprised of members from our diverse community and included a critical review of all of the evidence by several national experts. This thorough process resulted in a finding that the officers acted in a legal manner.
"Due to pending litigation and state law, the Austin Police Department is limited on what can be said and released as it relates to this incident. The Austin Police Department believes in being transparent, but there are times when we are restricted in releasing information until all legal matters have been completed.
"I am confident that once all the evidence related to the Byron Carter shooting can be released, the reasons for the grand jury and my findings will be readily supported by the facts and evidence in this tragic incident."
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