AUSTIN (KXAN) — A man who was shot by four Austin police officers in 2017 filed a lawsuit against the Austin Police Department Thursday for use of excessive force against him.
In April 2017, Lawrence Parrish was having an argument with a friend when the police were called. Officers originally said Parrish exchanged gunfire with them, but several days after the shooting, the investigation revealed he had not actually fired his weapon.
Chief Brian Manley, however, said Parrish pointed a weapon at the officers. It’s a claim the department still stands behind.
Parrish was shot by four officers seven times and was left with an amputated finger. He was charged with aggravated assault on a peace officer — a charge that was later dropped. He pleaded guilty to aggravated assault with a deadly weapon in relation to the argument he was having with his friend.
The lawsuit filed Thursday in the United States District Court Western District of Texas names the four officers who shot Parrish — Dane O’Neill, Paul Bianchi, Jordan Wagstaff and Marcos Johnson — along with the City of Austin as defendants.
Ken Casaday, the president of the Austin Police Association said the district attorney cleared the officers of all criminal wrongdoing and he backed the actions of the four men.
“It’s sad what happened to Mr. Parrish, but it’s his actions that brought this on. You don’t point a gun at people. There was mass confusion out there. Some of the allegations made by the attorneys of Mr. Parrish are outlandish.”
Parrish’s legal representation claims in the court filing that the officers, under no threat to themselves, shot and severely injured him in violation of his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights.
The lawsuit also claims police officers deliberately pointed their car dashcams away from the front door of Parrish’s home in an effort to prevent clear video footage from being available.
“It was a coordinated, intentional plan to diminish the potential review and oversight of the officers’ actions with objective evidence,” Parrish’s lawyer wrote of the lack of dashcam footage.
Casaday said officers are trained to protect themselves when approaching a scene and were following standard policies when it came to parking their police units.
“You don’t pull right up in front of the address where you are a sitting target,” Casaday said. “It’s natural and taught to park down the street or a few houses away. You don’t pull right up in front of the house.”
According to the lawsuit, “there was a concerted, unified effort to justify the actions of the officers by claiming that the Plaintiff (Parrish) fired at them, starting a gun fight.”
After an internal review of the incident, all the officers were back on the job within a few weeks without any disciplinary action, the lawsuit alleges.
“These officers involved in the shooting have a solid record and there are no apologies here. They did their job,” Casaday said.
Parrish is asking for a jury trial and damages from the city and officers for the “physical pain,” “mental anguish,” “disfigurement,” and “loss of earning capacity.”
“Who is supposed to pay for that? Lawrence? Medicaid? The state of Texas? Or the people who shot him when he posed no threat?” Robert Ranco, Parrish’s civil rights attorney said.
A brother’s plea
Cluren WIlliams, Lawrence Parrish’s older brother, said this lawsuit is important because it will hold APD accountable for its actions.
“This is the first time we as a community — black, brown and white — can come together and stand for the righteousness of the system.”
Williams acknowledged the victory his family earned when the charge of aggravated assault on a peace officer was dropped. But he said it feels like they deserve more for the anguish they’ve gone through over the past two years.
“We don’t want revenge. But we want something. We haven’t gotten anything,” Williams said. “He lost his hands. He got shot in the eye, the nose, the mouth. They shot my brother in both his hands. They blew his fingers off. He did 13 surgeries in three weeks. He has to win!”