AUSTIN (KXAN) — The suspect involved in a hostage situation at a home on Rogge Lane in east Austin Wednesday evening was shot and killed by an officer, according to the Austin Police Department.
APD Chief Brian Manley held a press conference Wednesday night, saying none of the responding officers were hurt by gunfire between them and the suspect, and the hostages — a woman and 10-year-old boy — are now safe and unharmed.
Manley advised they are still in the initial stages of the investigation, and the whole incident lasted about an hour.
5:18 p.m. – Manley reported the original call came in at 5:18 p.m. for a car that had crashed into a home in the 2900 block of Rogge Lane. That’s near the intersection with Manor Road.
“I heard some brakes, and then all of a sudden a crash, and I felt my house move,” said Lucy Barcenas, who says the car hit her home just as she was laying down for a nap.
She went out to the side of her house.
“I saw a brand new car into my back wall bedroom, and the door’s wide open, nobody in it,” Barcenas said.
5:21 p.m. – Manley said the 911 center received another call from a woman in a different home in the area, reporting that someone had broke into her home. At this point, officers responded to both calls.
5:23 p.m. – Officers arrived at the woman’s home and heard a disturbance and screaming, according to Manley.
Barcenas said she knows that neighbor.
“I said, ‘Oh my god, that cannot be happening, that cannot be happening,'” she said. “They’re good people.”
5:27 p.m. – Officers forced entry into the home and found the suspect, who fired shots at the officers. One of the officers returned fire. It is unclear if the suspect was hit at this point, Manley said.
Officers then exited the home and called for additional officers as well as the SWAT team, since the incident escalated into a hostage situation involving the woman who called 911 and a boy believed to be about 10 years old, Manley said.
SWAT arrived on scene and began its protocols and staging personnel. Officers had been trying to communicate with the suspect with the PA system and through phone calls, asking him to put down his weapon or surrender, Manley said.
At one point, Manley said a door was open, revealing the child hostage motioning to officers to come inside, telling them there was no one inside the home with him. However, officers saw the suspect shut the door. This was now believed to be an attempt to lure officers inside, according to Manley.
The suspect was seen periodically during the process, Manley said, but he would go back into the home.
6:17 p.m. – Manley said the suspect opened the door, and officers saw him. The suspect, who Manley said is believed to be a 21-year-old man, was holding the child in a “hostage position” in front of him.
A SWAT officer fired and hit the man, fatally wounding him. Manley said both hostages were recovered safely.
What APD knows about the suspect
APD said it did not have knowledge of the suspect before this hostage situation, and the victims did not know the suspect. Additionally, Manley said there is no known connection between the suspect and the house he broke into. He has not been identified.
A perspective on hostage situations
For perspective, KXAN turned to Howard Williams, a lecturer at Texas State University’s School of Criminal Justice and Criminology.
“The general rule is time is on your side: The longer you can talk, the better your chances are getting everybody out safely,” said Williams, a former Austin police officer and a retired police chief for the City of San Marcos.
But sometimes, he said, officers don’t have time.
“If they’re not willing to talk to you, and they start exhibiting force. They start shooting at the officers or they start threatening to kill their hostages or they actually start hurting hostages, the time for talk is kind of over. We’re now facing an immediate deadly force confrontation,” Williams said.
He said depending on how the suspect was holding the hostage, officers may have thought there was an immediate threat.
“If he’s just kind of standing there, one arm on your right shoulder, one arm on your left shoulder and standing back behind him going, ‘Please don’t hurt me,’ that’s one thing,” Williams explained. “If he’s standing there like an arm wrapped around the hostage’s head and shoulders kind of thing with a gun pointed at their head, we have something different.”
He said right now, we don’t have information on how the boy was being held yet.
“Until you have all the details, it’s really difficult to pass judgment on whether the officers made the right decision at the right time.”
Multiple investigations underway
Manley said multiple investigations are going on at this time in regards to the incident. APD Internal Affairs is investigating along with the Office of Police Oversight to determine if proper policies were followed.
The two officers — a patrol officer and a SWAT team member — who fired their weapons have also been placed on administrative leave, as per protocol. The patrol officer who first responded has been with APD for eight years, and the SWAT officer has been with the department for 13 years.
A criminal investigation by the APD Special Investigations Unit is also underway with the Travis County District Attorney’s Office.