AUSTIN (KXAN) — A new lawsuit has been filed against the city of Austin four years after a teen shot himself in the back of an Austin Police patrol car and later died.
The lawsuit, filed Jan. 8, alleges wrongful death against the City of Austin after Zachary Anam was arrested due to accusations of shoplifting at a south Austin shopping mall.
Austin Police took Anam into custody on Jan. 9, 2017, however, neither mall officers nor APD officers confiscated the gun the alleged suspect had in his waistband.
On the drive to the Travis County Jail, audio recordings reveal the officer talked to Anam about spending ‘”the rest of his life behind bars,”‘ and a few blocks from the jail, Anam told him he was suicidal, to which the officer responded, ‘”they’ll take care of you at the jail.'”
Anam then told the officer, “‘I don’t know if I’m going to make it,'” before telling him, “‘I have a loaded firearm to my head, Officer!'”
Once at the jail, the officer left Anam alone in the car before he fired a shot at his head. He died from his injuries later that day at the hospital.
The lawsuit alleges that City of Austin police officers have a “pattern, practice, and custom of performing plainly incompetent and unreasonable searches of arrestees and pretrial detainees,” and also later says the APD officer “admitted that the search…was unreasonable.”
It also says in years preceding Anam’s death, jail officers found weapons on “detainees arrested and (allegedly) searched by APD officers on average more than once a month,” and goes on to give data about weapons missed from 2013 to 2017.
KXAN has reached out to the City of Austin for comment.
In August 2020, Austin’s 3rd Court of Appeals ruled that legal action can be taken against the City of Austin, after it denied the city’s request to be immune. That decision allowed for the lawsuit to proceed for a trial in March.
A similar lawsuit was filed two years ago by Anam’s parents, but was dropped in October 2020.