AUSTIN (KXAN) — A former Austin police officer accused of sexually assaulting a woman he met on a call in 2020 now faces a lawsuit in the case. The city of Austin is also named in the lawsuit, which is asking for damages.
The lawsuit, filed Wednesday, said former APD officer Walter Dodds sexually assaulted the woman in April 2020 after he responded to a call at her apartment while he was working at the department. The lawsuit described how following the assault, the victim said Dodds repeatedly called her and drove by her apartment several times before being arrested.
“The City has not yet been served with the lawsuit but we are familiar with the incident that occurred two years ago. In response to the serious allegations APD immediately began an investigation. The officer who is separately named in the lawsuit is no longer employed by APD,” the city of Austin wrote in a statement.
KXAN reached out to Dodds and his attorney team for comment on the lawsuit. We will update this story when we receive a response.
Dodds was arrested and charged with second-degree sexual assault. Dodds resigned from APD on Aug. 31, 2020, before an administrative investigation into the incident was completed.
The incident began on April 18, 2020, when Dodds was called out to a home in northeast Austin. Dodds interviewed a man who was later placed under an emergency detention and taken to the hospital to be evaluated and a woman, according to the affidavit.
During the interview, Dodds got the woman’s phone number and told her he would call her about where the man was being taken. Body camera footage from the scene recorded Dodds asking the woman if she was going to lock her apartment, the affidavit said.
Several weeks later, on April 29, the woman from the April 18 incident called 911 to report a sexual assault by a police officer that happened on April 18. The woman told police that she had been getting inappropriate calls from Dodds, who she said sexually assaulted her on the same day he responded to the initial call.
According to the arrest affidavit, call logs from the victim’s phone showed calls and a text from an APD cell phone issued to Dodds. The victim reported the first call started out normal, but became inappropriate, with Dodds asking to come over several times.
The affidavit said Dodds called the victim several times after he first met her and drove by her apartment in a patrol car.
The victim is suing Dodds for fourth and 14th amendment violations, stating that Dodds violated her substantive due process right to bodily integrity. The victim is also suing the City of Austin for fourth and 14th amendments violations, claiming the city and Austin PD were “failing to train officers about preventing sexual harassment and sexual assault,” “adopting a cultural of tolerance for sexual violence and unjustified skepticism of reports of sexual violence” and “(failing) to investigate APD officers accused of sexual assault.”
Dodds’ next court hearing in the criminal sexual assault case is set for April 26.
Sexual assault cases in Austin
Austin and Travis County were first sued in 2018 and accused of mishandling several women’s sexual assault cases. A second lawsuit was brought forward by an additional sexual assault survivor in 2020. In June, 2021, Travis County settled its part of the lawsuit with survivors, who claimed the county refused to prosecute their cases and failed to test DNA evidence for years.
The county said it was going to make changes to how sexual assault cases were handled, including notifying survivors any time there is a significant update to their cases; regularly releasing data to the public about how sex assault cases are being handled; putting every one of its staff members through special training to ensure qualifications to work with sex assault survivors; and work closely with the women involved in the June settlement to make sure the county is upholding high standards for handling future sexual assault cases.
In November 2021, Austin City Council ordered a “large-scale evaluation” be done examining the Austin Police Department’s handling of sex assault cases over the past seven years to identify the reasons why so few moved forward to prosecution.
APD said its Sex Crimes Unit has expanded, with the department adding one new detective position in 2021. It also increased the number of victim service counselors available to assist survivors.