AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin Police Chief Brian Manley will get together with department leaders this week to discuss increased staffing for safety in downtown after a deadly weekend with multiple shootings, he said in a press conference Sunday morning.
Manley said he will not allow the entertainment district to turn into a dangerous place where “shootings become the common occurrence.”
The string of violence began in the early hours of Saturday. A shooting at a Wendy’s parking lot in east Austin left three injured. A few hours later, police responded to a shooting in central Austin near the University of Texas at Austin west campus that left one injured.
Soon after, police responded to a shooting at a north Austin Denny’s restaurant left one person with life-threatening injuries. Finally Saturday night, one person suffered life-threatening injuries was shot on Sixth Street in downtown in a crowded part of town that was filled South by Southwest festival-goers.
“We recognize what has occurred this weekend and we will be taking steps to address it with additional resources and plans to make sure that this does not become a common occurrence here,” Chief Manley said.
At the time of the officer-involved shooting, early Sunday around 50 officers were already near the intersection of Seventh Street and Interstate 35 for security for South by Southwest.
This isn’t the first string of shootings in downtown Austin. The last string occurred in October and in response, APD beefed up its police presence in the area.
Since stepping into his role, Chief Manley has consistently called for more staffing for the police force. As the number of people in downtown Austin increases, so do the number of calls for APD to respond, he says.
Many incidents involve people who are intoxicated, and a bulk of their calls to downtown are “disturbances” or fights.
On Saturday, Austin Police Association President Ken Casaday told KXAN that during SXSW, many officers were working an extra 20-30 hours a week on top of their 40 hours, but that their contracts stipulate they will be paid time and a half.
The Austin police officers union said it plans to hold a news conference early this week to address the increase in “shots fired” calls downtown, and SXSW venues booking artists that the officers believe incite violence.
“If you have been paying attention to the news for the past several months, we’ve had several shootings down here,” Casaday said. “You know when you are working down here on a Friday or Saturday — or really any time of the week — that you have to be on your A-game and you have to be prepared to take action.”