AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Austin Police Department released video related to an east Austin hostage situation in February that left the suspect dead after two police officers fired at him.
Officers were able to safely remove the hostages, a woman and a 10-year-old boy, from the home on the night of Feb. 10. APD said the situation began when Jordan Walton crashed a car into a house on the 2900 block of Rogge Lane, near Manor Road, and then broke into the woman’s home nearby. Police say Walton fired at officers who tried to enter and later attempted to use the boy as a shield.
Officer Jeffrey Hutchison, who has worked at APD for eight years, and Officer Ryan Nichols, who’s been there 13 years, were initially placed on paid administrative leave per department policy. APD said in early June both had been returned to full duty.
WARNING: This video contains graphic content and profanity. Viewer discretion is advised.
The officers’ body worn camera show Austin police trying to rescue the 10-year-old boy and the woman held hostage inside. Austin police say Walton shot at them and threatened to kill the woman when they entered the house at first.
A SWAT team swarmed while Walton was on the phone with 911. When Walton came outside the house using the child as a human shield, a SWAT officer fired one single, deadly shot.
Walton’s family says police video doesn’t tell full story
Walton’s family said even after the video’s release, there are still a lot of unanswered questions.
Walton’s mother told KXAN he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia in 2019.
She said his father and brother were on scene with officers the night Walton was killed, and she was on the phone with police. She said they were all telling police about Walton’s mental illness.
“We have patiently awaited the findings of the Austin Police Department. And since the release of their briefing and their conclusions thus far, there remains many unanswered questions that we believe are central to understanding the tragic and fatal events that resulted in the death of our son,” said Walton’s mother, Anissa Stovall, and his father, Terrell Walton, in a statement. “Although we mourn, there is no time for grief, because our son’s voice must be heard. Jordan’s murder was not justified, and justice was not served.”
The family attorney, Donna Keith, said her firm is doing an independent investigation and also may request that other law enforcement agencies investigate as well.
“After reviewing the briefing posted by APD on June 17, I find it lacking,” Keith said in a statement. “It sheds no light on the effort that APD made to de-escalate a very volatile situation. Nor does it show any attempts to negotiate a non-lethal resolution.”
KXAN asked APD on Wednesday whether officers with mental health training were sent to the scene to help. APD has not yet answered that question, however we will update this story when we receive a response.
The Group 400+1, which set up an autonomous camp in protest of Walton’s death in February, also released a statement, saying in part, “His death was unjustified, and we intend to continue to pursue justice for Jordan and for the woman and child impacted by his actions. As a community still in mourning, it’s imperative that we remember what justice looks like. It looks like universal safety.”
APD repeatedly delayed video release
APD is supposed to release “Critical Incident Community Briefing” videos for situations where its officers fire their guns, in an effort to increase transparency and trust with the community. Before it’s released to the public, the next of kin, attorneys, the officers involved and city officials will watch it.
Under its policy, the video should be released 60 days after the incident. That did not happen here — the hostage situation and shooting happened Feb. 10, which would have put 60 days in mid-April. APD previously told KXAN the winter storm pushed the process back, and it estimated it would have it ready May 1. In early May, it said it would be pushed back again to June 4.
On June 9, APD sent out a release explaining “production and stakeholder feedback delays” caused it to push back the release of this video and one related to an April 9 shooting. It gave a new deadline for the February case video release as June 25, which it met.
“It’s disappointing to me when we don’t make that 60-day timeline,” said Gregorio Casar, Austin City council member District 4.
Casar first pushed for a policy to release these videos within 60 days in 2018.
“It’s really important, especially when we look for a new police chief. We need to get a commitment that that body-worn camera comes out within the 60-days, if not sooner,” said Casar.
Austin City council member Mackenzie Kelly argues the process should take as long as necessary to preserve the integrity of the investigation.
“I trust the process that we currently have with the police department and the parties involved to review, because it may be entirely appropriate,” said Kelly.
Director of Police Oversight Farah Muscadin reviews each set of videos along with the district attorney’s office and the Austin Police Department communications team.
“I think we underestimated how long it would take,” said Muscadin. “We go through three versions to make sure the last one is correct.”
Muscadin said it’s a process that could be quicker.
“What I’m hoping for from this experience, which I do think has been positive, is to move to what Houston just did last week,” said Muscadin.
Houston’s Police Department’s policy is to release videos within 30 days. It’s now releasing the raw, unedited body camera videos from officers involved in shootings online as well as informational videos that do not require as much production.