Austin will pay $2.25M to family of Jason Roque, suicidal man killed by APD officer

Investigations

AUSTIN (KXAN) – Austin City Council approved paying $2.25 million Thursday to the family of Jason Roque, a suicidal 20-year-old shot multiple times and killed by an Austin police officer on May 2, 2017.

The settlement agreement will end a federal excessive force lawsuit brought by Roque’s family against the city and APD officer James Harvel, who shot Roque.

The day of the incident, police responding to a 911 call arrived to find Roque, a Hispanic man having a mental crisis, walking on a northeast Austin street with what appeared to be a handgun. The gun was later found to be a BB gun. Roque was pointing the gun at his head and asking officers to kill him, according to the federal lawsuit filed in September 2017.

During the encounter, Harvel shot Roque three times. After being hit with the first shot, Roque dropped the BB gun and began stumbling away. Harvel then fired two more shots, killing Roque, according to police incident video and the lawsuit.

“Hopefully, this settlement will encourage the City to reevaluate how police handle calls from people suffering mental health crises, to help prevent similar tragedies in the future,” said Jeff Edwards, the Roque family’s attorney, in a prepared statement.

In April, the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a district court’s denial of summary judgement in the case. The federal appeals court ruling said several factual disputes remained in the case, “and if resolved in plaintiff’s favor, Harvel is not entitled to qualified immunity.”

Councilmember Mackenzie Kelly was the lone vote against the settlement agreement. She voted against it because Harvel was cleared of any wrongdoing, according to one of her Tweets referencing reporting by KUT News.

 KXAN examined Roque’s case in the 2020 Catalyst project “Dead and Undone,” after discovering Roque’s custodial death report was not completed for three years following his death.

Law enforcement agencies are required to file custodial death reports within 30 days of a death in their custody. Those reports are supposed to be updated with relevant information when it becomes available. Roque’s report was not completed with a medical examiner’s findings for over three years. APD updated the report after being contacted by KXAN about it.

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