Homicide rate in Austin is the highest it’s been in years, police say

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The city of Austin is experiencing the highest number of homicides in 10 years, the Austin Police Department says.

There are currently 44 homicides being investigated in Austin, the department reports. At this time last year, there were 31.

Why is this happening?

In a briefing on Monday, APD Lt. Jeff Greenwalt explained the department keeps getting questions about why homicides are on the rise in Austin.

“We see all the same types of murders that we’ve seen in years past,” Greenwalt said. “We have a lot of robberies that have ended up in somebody dying—making it a capital murder. And we have a fair amount of domestic violence[s] that occur as well. But what we’re not seeing is new type of crime that leading to homicides. We’re just seeing all of the same reasons we’ve seen before.”

The lieutenant said it may be a long while to analyze why this is happening now.

“We don’t have any trends that are Earth-shattering right now,” he said. “Other than we’re just seeing a lot more numbers than we have in years past.”

APD also gave updates on several recent homicides.

Homicides 41-44

Carpenter Avenue, Oct. 30 – Homicide 41

Police have arrested 18-year-old Richard Speed in connection with a north Austin shooting, where 38-year-old Jose Francisco Galeano Antunez was pronounced dead at the scene. APD says Speed and another juvenile suspect pulled up in a car and offered to sell Antunez marijuana. When he declined, the suspects reportedly attempted to rob Antunez and his friends, ending in the man’s death.

Speed is charged with capital murder. An additional capital murder charge is being issued for the other juvenile suspect, APD says.

Northwest Austin car dealership, Nov. 6 – Homicide 42

Two suspects have been arrested and charged with capital murder in connection with this botched car robbery at a used car dealership at 11320 Ranch Road 2222. The suspects, Modesto Hernandez and Alberto Torres, say they were at the dealership to steal a vehicle when a store employee, Jerry Paul Lee, 61, tried to stop them.

According to APD, another dealership employee had a concealed handgun and shots were fired by both parties. Police found Lee with a gunshot wound and he was pronounced dead shortly after. Torres was shot by the dealership employee and is currently in critical condition.

East Austin Waffle House shooting, Nov. 7 – Homicide 43

APD says a group of friends—split up in two vehicles—went to the Waffle House located at 8800 East 290 after a night of drinking at a nearby bar. After ordering food, the group went outside to wait in their cars when an SUV pulled into the parking lot.

A man inside the vehicle was holding a rifle and another was holding a handgun; they demanded the group’s belongings. In the process of the friends surrendering their belongings, APD says one of the friends attempted to drive away.

At this point, the man with the rifle fired into that vehicle, hitting 23-year-old victim Mario A. Robinson. His friends then drove him away to a nearby neighborhood where they called police and emergency services.

APD says it’s still developing leads and that if the public has any information to call. A $1,000 reward is currently being offered.

Spyglass Drive shooting, Nov. 8 – Homicide 44

At around 7:30 a.m., officers responded to an apartment complex at 1781 Spyglass Drive, where they found the 25-year-old victim with a gunshot wound. Despite life-saving measures by Austin-Travis EMS, the victim died at the scene at 7:45 a.m.

According to APD, the victim was shot by his boyfriend while attempting to pack up and leave. An argument over the ownership of a shot gun ensued and a fight broke out. Police say the shot gun went off, striking the victim.

The suspect has been arrested on manslaughter charges and his bond was set at $20,000. The investigation is ongoing and APD says the charges could be upgraded depending.

Gov. Abbott takes aim at Austin

Gov. Greg Abbott took to Twitter Monday, saying the city’s homicide rate is the highest in 20 years.

“This is why it is absurd that Austin is defunding police. It is also why Texas will act to roll back that defunding and consider taking over policing some areas of Austin,” Abbott said.

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