AUSTIN (KXAN) — The parents of a 20-year-old man shot and killed by an Austin police officer in May are suing the city.
Jason Roque’s parents say they called 911 for help when their son was suicidal. But they say neighborhood security footage shows police did the opposite of helping their son.
“Police didn’t handle the situation the way they should,” said Roque’s father, Vincente Roque, in a press conference Thursday. “Otherwise, we would have him here today. We wouldn’t have to go through all of this.”
After the shooting occurred in May, APD said Roque was holding a gun, and Officer James Harvel shot him because he couldn’t see where Roque was pointing it. Roque’s mother was outside, and police said there was a fear she could be in danger.
The family’s attorneys released video from a neighbor’s security camera, however, that they say proves Officer Harvel shouldn’t have shot him.
Personal injury attorney Jeff Edwards says he had the video professionally analyzed and found Roque could be seen dropping the gun after Officer Harvel fired his first shot. After the first shot, Roque can be seen walking away from the spot where Edwards says he dropped the gun. Still, two more shots were fired at him seconds later, ultimately killing the man.
“That is deliberation,” Edwards said, of the four to five-second delay between Roque allegedly dropping his gun and the third shot fired. “That is a conscious, intentional choice by this officer to kill someone.”
Albina Roque also claims she told 911 operators the gun her son was holding “wasn’t real.” She says it was a BB gun, and she made officers aware that it was not a real pistol.
“They weren’t there to stop a bank robbery or a murder,” Edwards said. “They were there to help a child, and what they did is shocking, reprehensible and needs to be stopped immediately.”
Edwards said he and attorney Steven Lee took on the Roques’ case because it’s not the first time they’ve seen police gun someone down instead of rendering mental help. The attorneys say Roque struggled with mental illness and needed to be talked down from committing suicide, not shot.
“That that happened is unconscionable,” Edwards said, “That the city of Austin police force does not know how to de-escalate a situation involving someone with suicidal tendencies in this day and age is unacceptable.”
Albina Roque says she and her husband chose to sue because they called police for help saving their son, not ending his life — and they don’t want the same thing to happen to another family.
Roque was the second person officer Harvel shot while on duty in a year’s time. He also shot and injured an armed teenager last June and was temporarily put on leave and sent to therapy. But Police Chief Brian Manley APD found no reason he couldn’t return to duty after the first shooting. APD declined to comment on the lawsuit because it’s concerning an ongoing investigation.
A city of Austin spokesperson also declined to comment, saying, “While we have not yet been served with the lawsuit, we are very familiar with the incident that occurred in May of this year. We are prepared to defend against the lawsuit.”