Family files lawsuit against APD officer who killed local teen

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — The family of David Joseph, a naked unarmed teen killed by an Austin police officer, filed a wrongful death lawsuit.

The federal suit is against former Austin police officer Geoffrey Freeman and the City of Austin. Protesters have been calling for justice claiming Officer Freeman should be facing criminal charges after killing 17-year-old Joseph in February 2016.

The suit claims the city has not trained officers on using other methods that are not deadly force, they have not addressed an under-staffing issue and the police are discriminating against minorities.

“It’s not fair that African American kids are shot at a grossly disproportionate rate,” said Jeff Edwards, the Joseph family attorney. “This is about real meaningful change.”

“Every day is hard for me. I try to make it, but I don’t know, I don’t feel like I’m going to live anymore like I used to because David’s pain caused me death,” Ketty Sully, Joseph’s mom said.

Freeman was the first to arrive on the scene at the 12000 block of Natures Bend on Feb. 8. According to the Citizen’s Review Panel, the officer saw a naked Joseph standing in the street.

Stepping out of the car, Freeman yelled out for Joseph to “stop.” The panel states Joseph turned towards Freeman and started running in the officer’s direction. Video from Freeman’s dasher camera shows exactly 6.7 seconds later, two shots were fired from Freeman’s gun. One of the bullets hit Joseph in his chest and the other in his leg. Joseph died shortly after.

The panel highlights the other options Freeman could have used; such as a baton, Taser, spray, or bean bag gun. They said Freeman violated APD policies and procedures using deadly force and neglecting his duties. The suit claims the officer shot Joseph “when he posed no threat of serious bodily injury or death to anyone.”

After five days of testimony, the grand jury determined Freeman was justified in the shooting and killing of Joseph. However, the Austin Police Department fired 41-year-old Freeman in mid-March.

Austin Chief of Police Art Acevedo said after a long investigation involving Freeman’s supervisors and other department heads, he determined “based on the totality of circumstances, we didn’t agree that the officer’s use of deadly force was needed” and that it was not “justified in this case.”

Joseph’s mother, Sully says sh’s heartbroken, but wants to fight for change.

“I hope now, the city takes a stop and do their job and trains the officers right,” Sully says. “I know we’re always going to need them, but we need them in the right way, we need them to protect us, we need them to help us, we don’t need them to kill us; I hope they know that.”

Austin’s Officer Involved Shootings

The Austin Police Department releases a report every year about the numbers of officer-involved shootings within the department.

Less than half of the people shot were white (44 percent), 31 percent were black and 22 percent were Hispanic, meaning more than 50 percent involved minorities.

Read the full report: Austin Police Department OIS Report

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