AUSTIN (KXAN) — A visit from the City of Austin for lawn care resulted in gunfire, a large house fire and an officer-involved shooting Wednesday in southwest Austin. The man involved was later taken to an area hospital where he died, Austin police said.
According to the Austin Police Department, the situation began around 9:16 a.m., when the Austin Code Department and APD officers visited a resident to serve a warrant in the 10600 block of Pinkney Lane. Code enforcement intended to conduct lawn maintenance after complaints of high weeds and grass.
“They attempted to cut the lawn for him, and this is the reaction they got,” APD officer Jose Mendez said Wednesday.
APD says during the visit around 10:21 a.m., the resident began firing a gun from inside the home. The city says all Austin Code staff involved are alright, though one code inspector suffered a minor shoulder injury while seeking cover.
SWAT crews, mental health officers and crisis negotiators responded around 10:43 a.m. to the home. APD says the resident refused to come out or communicate with officials. SWAT spent “several hours” trying to contact the man inside using de-escalation techniques.
At 3:19 p.m., officers moved to the back of the residence, where the man began shooting again. Officers made entry at the front of the home using a robot. The robot could see a fire had been started inside the home, and it was beginning to spread, according to APD Chief Joseph Chacon.
For the next 20 minutes, officers tried to coax the man out, but they could see the house was fully engulfed in flames, Chacon says. Officers thought at this point, the man had succumbed to the flames and smoke.
The Austin Fire Department began extinguishing the fire. At 3:39 p.m., the garage door opened, and the man stepped out with “weapons in hand,” Chacon says. A SWAT officer shot and hit the resident, who went down with a gunshot wound.
Officers tried to get the man out of the home, separating him from his weapons and the fire. Medical aid was given to the resident. He was later taken to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 4:01 p.m., according to Chacon.
“This was a multi-agency response,” Chacon said. AFD, Travis County SWAT, Travis County Constables and, as mentioned before, Code Enforcement, were all part of making the scene safe, Chacon stated. No officers were hurt.
Austin Fire will continue to keep an eye on the home to make sure the fire doesn’t reignite. People are asked to stay away from the area for a bit as law enforcement wraps up the scene.
Details on officer who shot resident
Chacon says the officer who shot the man is a SWAT officer who has been with the department for eight years. As is standard APD protocol, he’ll be placed on administrative duty, pending the results of two separate investigations.
A criminal investigation will be done by the APD Special Investigations Unit along with the district attorney’s office. An administrative investigation will be handled by the Office of Police Oversight and APD Internal Affairs.
‘It’s been a crazy morning’
Tyler Strickel was working on indoor construction at a nearby business and says he first saw police cars “fly by” the area around 9:30 a.m. At one point, an officer spoke to him and his coworkers.
“He came up to the windows and said, ‘stay in there, might have been a gunshot.’ It’s been a crazy morning,” Strickel said.
During the incident, he heard members of the SWAT team speaking to someone over an intercom and flash-bangs.
“This is a great neighborhood,” Strickel said. “I’m from here originally, and I just know there’s a bunch of elementary schools and preschools here, so it was just definitely shocking.”
The City of Austin says there were several other complaints filed about the property over the last year, and it had even conducted a similar abatement without incident.
Impact on schools in area
A local child care center and an elementary school are in the area of where the SWAT incident took place.
Circle C Child Development Center said it was put on secure lockdown earlier in the day, and parents could pick up their kids if they wanted to. Kiker Elementary School on La Crosse Avenue also went under “secure” status in response to the incident.
The lockdown on the schools were lifted after officers were confident the suspect was taken to the hospital.
There is no threat to the public or the neighborhood, according to Chacon.
According to Austin ISD, “secure” is used when there’s a threat outside of the building. As a result, all doors are locked with students/staff inside. Operations continue as normal.
Meanwhile, Austin ISD says bus routes at several schools were disrupted due to the situation, including Kiker and Bear Elementary Schools; Lively, Gorzycki and Kealing Middle Schools; Bowie High School; LASA; Ann Richard SYWL; and the district’s Alternative Learning Center.