Fight over stolen wallet leads to a man’s death in downtown Austin, police say

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Robert Batiste was arrested by Austin Police after alleged manslaughter.

AUSTIN (KXAN) – A 63-year-old man is accused of killing a man in downtown Austin, leaving the victim not breathing and draining his face of color, according to an affidavit.

The man accused was identified as Robert Batiste. He is being charged with manslaughter, a second-degree felony.

On Thursday around 5:22 p.m., officials received a call about a disturbance at the intersection of 5thand Brazos Streets, officials wrote.

In court documents, a witness describes the situation as “(a man) wearing black pants and no shoes was assaulting a (man) across the street from the Handlebar bar.”

Later, officials reported a homicide occurred and an off-duty officer began to perform CPR on the victim.

When officials arrived on the scene, the victim was lying unconscious and not breathing on the sidewalk. The officer giving the victim CPR stated the victim’s “pupils were very large, and his skin was pale and blue,” according to an affidavit.

The victim was transported to the Dell Seton hospital where he was pronounced dead around 6:12 p.m., officials wrote.

After police spoke to a handful of witnesses, a particular witness pointed out Batiste who was sitting on a bench, court documents said.

Before an Austin Police officer arrested Batiste he observed a black wallet stitched with “UT” emblems resting on the bench next to him.

Batiste said in his statement to police that the victim stole his wallet. He told the officer he “began chasing the (victim) west bound on E.5thStreet in order to get his wallet back.” Batiste states the victim “fell to the ground” on the E.5thand Brazos Streets.

Officials confirmed the wallet was Batiste’s with his social security card inside. 

In his statement to police, Batiste explained the incident began on Sabine Street. Batiste was lying down on his right side when a man took his wallet out of his left back pocket. Batiste said that man ran briefly, stopped, looked through Batiste’s wallet and pulled out a $100 bill. 

Batiste told the man to “take the money, just leave the wallet.” Instead of giving the wallet back to Batiste, the man continued to run, and Batiste chased him.

He stated “the (man) appeared to be laughing while running and at one point fell down on the sidewalk, which helped (Batiste) catch-up to him,”

He was then able to catch-up with the man at the intersection of 5thand Brazos Streets when the man fell on his own, Batiste “did not punch or knock (him) down,” according to Batiste’s statement.

Witnesses then saw the victim’s death at the intersection, court records say.

One of the witnesses reported he saw the chase happen. He states he saw Batiste “hit the (man) in the back of his head causing the (victim) to fall face down to the ground.”

The same witnesses said he saw Batiste hover over the victim and began assaulting him. Once the conflict worsened, the witness called 911.

The witness said that Batiste was still over the victim at that time. The witness said that when he approached the conflict, “the color on the (victim’s) face was changing from blue to gray.” The witness observed Batiste putting his hand around the victim’s throat and his other forearm on the back of the victim’s neck, officials wrote.

Police watched cell phone video taken by a security officer which showed “(the victim) lying on his left side with his knees bent and his upper body turned towards the pavement. Batiste’s left knee was pressed against the back of the (victim’s) neck and his right knee positioned on the pavement against the (victim’s) back,” according to an affidavit.

The video then showed Batiste saying, “give me my wallet.” Batiste then proceeded to “pull up on the (victim’s) right arm, lift up his right knee and placed all of his weight onto his left knee what was positioned on the back of the (victim’s) neck,” says court documents.

An official noticed in the video that the wallet was underneath the victim’s body in his left hand. Yet based on the victim’s position and the weight over him, it is suspected he was unable to release the wallet, according to an affidavit.

Batiste continued to apply pressure to the victim’s upper back and neck area for about 50 seconds as the victim’s legs were “flailing up and down,” officials said.

Several seconds later, the victim’s legs “stopped moving and an official observed him taking a deep exhale and became unresponsive,” court documents stated.

Batiste later said in his statement he “did not believe he did anything to injure the (victim) and he that was in a position where he could breathe,” according to an affidavit.

An autopsy was performed on Friday and the victim’s cause of death was likely due to “positional asphyxiation related to prone restraint.” A toxicology report is still pending to see if there any other causes of death, officials wrote.

Robert Batiste is currently being held with no bond at the Travis County Jail.

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