Man in SWAT situation had no violent history during code visits, officials say

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — An Austin Code Department visit off Pinkney Lane in southwest Austin turned violent Wednesday when a man opened fire, but code department officials said there wasn’t a history of aggression or violence at his property.

Code enforcement personnel and Austin Police officers visited the home, located in the 10600 block of Pinkney Lane, after 9 a.m. on Wednesday to serve the warrant and mow the overgrown lawn. Officials said an estimated two code workers and three police officers visited the property.

The visit escalated to a SWAT situation after the resident began firing from inside his home. After hours of de-escalation tactics from APD, crisis negotiators and mental health officers, a fire started inside the home.

The man later exited his garage with “weapons in hand,” Police Chief Joseph Chacon said, before a SWAT officer shot and hit him. He was taken to an area hospital where he later died, officials said.

Now, all that remains is a glimpse into the man’s life that neighbors say kept to himself.

“Minded his own business and appreciated it when everybody minded theirs,” said Grady Preston, who has lived next door since 2008.

Preston says he would run favors for his neighbor once in a while. The last time they spoke was about 10 days ago.

“Knocked on the door about 9 one morning and woke me up and wanted to visit,” Preston said.

Preston says he’s only interacted with his neighbor about 30 or 40 times over the last decade or so.

“I liked him, and we never had any trouble at all, never a cross word that I can remember,” he said.

The Austin Code Department will flag properties that have exhibited potential threats to workers — either human, animal or environment-related dangers, a department spokesperson said. Any violent or aggressive incidents during code visits are reported to APD.

KXAN found four notices from code enforcement between 2019 and 2021, all for lawn care violations.

Officials said the home had never previously been flagged as a threat in the department’s case management system. However, they said it had been the site of several visits in recent years: two complaints in 2020 and three cases reported in 2021.

“Very seldom had he ever trimmed it up and kept it up, so they had dealt with him before,” Preston said.

Police officers don’t accompany code enforcement personnel on every visit, department officials said. However, if property owners do not resolve a code violation within a given time frame, APD officers will accompany code workers to deliver the warrant. That practice has been in effect since 2012.

In code violation documents KXAN found, each one gives the property owner seven days to comply and warns if another violation happens within a year, “the city may take action to clean the property without further notice.”

Preston says he’s disappointed in the way things turned out.

“I was hoping that he would change his mind, you know, that they could change his mind to give up and… not make it go any farther,” Preston said. “I was always glad to see him when he did come to see me. So, I’ll miss him.”

Code enforcement cases are reported via Austin 3-1-1 or through filling out an online complaint form. Code inspections include both indoor and outdoor features of a property.

Code violations include the following circumstances:

  • Weeds, grass over 12 inches in height
  • Tree limbs blocking right-of-way
  • Fire-damaged properties: Code enforcement must assess the property and either repair the building to meet code standards or demolish it
  • Dangerous structures: Exposed electrical wiring, significant fire damage, open and vacated structures
  • Excessive junk: Properties are not allowed to “accumulate garbage, rubbish, brush, filth, carrion or any other unsightly, objectionable or unwholesome matter on their property”

Thus far in 2021, property abatements are the most frequent violations reported to Austin Code, which include overgrown grasses and weeds. Other noted violations include improper land uses and issues related to structure conditions.

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