AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Austin Police Department released video and the 911 recording of a May incident where a man opened fire on officers from a pickup truck in southeast Austin before being shot and killed by police.
APD said Robert Hammitt, 48, called 911 and told dispatchers he was being held at gunpoint by someone he described as a member of the National Guard or APD, Chief Joseph Chacon said in a briefing Thursday. APD reports neither agency was at the scene at that point.
“I noticed some cars following me earlier today, and it turned out to be the law enforcement,” Hammitt can be heard saying in the 911 audio recording. “They got the National Guard it looks like and some other folks around.”
Chacon said Hammitt told dispatchers he could not provide a description of the person but that he could be heard speaking, as if to a person, on the call. In the 911 audio Hammitt asks questions out loud, such as, “Hey boss man, do you know what address this is?”
The dispatcher asked what the people outside of the car are doing to which Hammitt responds: “They’re watching me, keeping an eye on me, making sure I don’t go anywhere.” When the dispatcher asks to speak with that person, nobody responds.
Body and dashboard camera footage shows police arriving at the scene to find Hammitt in his black pickup truck parked in a grassy area near an apartment complex near East Riverside Drive and South Pleasant Valley Road. In body camera footage, it does not appear there is anyone else on the scene aside from Hammitt. Chacon said responding officers did not see anyone else on scene, as Hammitt described in the 911 call.
“That was the guy who was seeing military soldiers in a different call,” one of the officers can be heard saying in his body camera footage as officers arrive.
Officers gave commands to Hammitt, telling him to get out of the truck, but Chacon said within “seconds” of opening the truck door, Hammitt began to fire at officers.
Officers returned gunfire, but the truck Hammitt was in kept moving, and Hammitt did not get out of the vehicle. In dashcam footage, his hands can be seen in the air sporadically after officers stopped shooting. He never gets out of the truck. Officers can be heard in body camera footage requesting a shield.
By 5:30 a.m., officers approached the truck and began to administer life-saving measures to Hammitt, Chacon said. He also noted that Austin-Travis County EMS arrived on the scene to help shortly after, but Hammitt was pronounced dead at 5:37 a.m.
No officers were hurt in the shooting. Five officers have been put on administrative leave during the investigation, as is policy.
Chacon called gun violence in the Austin community an “epidemic” in a briefing after this shooting in May.
“This is the second time in as many weeks that we’ve had officers that as they’re arriving on scene, as they’re approaching, are encountering gunfire that is coming directly from individuals,” Chacon said.
He said APD is working with the Travis County District Attorney’s Office, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and federal law enforcement partners on ways they can curb gun violence — from both a prevention and reactive standpoint.
That was the focus of a gun violence prevention summit that happened Wednesday. At that summit, and in a briefing shortly after this fatal shooting, Chacon urged gun owners to lock up their guns, so they don’t fall into the wrong hands.
“I encourage our community to safely secure your firearms. Do not let them fall into the hands of those that “Something I’ve been talking about for a long time is responsible gun ownership,” he said. “Having owners that really are safely storing their weapons and making sure those weapons don’t fall into the wrong hands.”
He also said gun crimes make it more difficult to recruit officers.
“We need a community that is really working with us—that is vigilant, and that is engaged with one another because I don’t have nearly the number of officers that I need to be able to patrol every street, every night,” Chacon said.
Meanwhile, Travis County commissioners this week unanimously voted to declare June “gun violence awareness month.”
“Travis County is not immune from the national gun violence trend,” Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez said.
To highlight the dangers of gun violence, even against law enforcement, Hernandez used an example from the weekend where she said TCSO had a suspect pull a gun out during a traffic stop. She said nobody was injured, but multiple guns and meth were found in the vehicle after the person was arrested.
Mental health resources are also something law enforcement and leaders are discussing as they continue to discuss gun violence.