05-13-13 : Slain APD officer to be honored
Jaime Padron tribute during National Police Week
Updated: Monday, 13 May 2013, 9:39 AM CDT
Published : Sunday, 12 May 2013, 7:01 PM CDT
AUSTIN (KXAN) - It's been 13 months since Austin Police lost an officer in the line of duty.
For people who knew Officer "Jaime Padron" it's been a time of pain and reflection.
This is National Police Week and for APD it will mark another opportunity to honor a popular member of the force who gave his life to protect Austin.
Some 60 APD officers began a journey Sunday to Washington, D.C. for a week-long annual event that honors law enforcement officers who made the ultimate sacrifice, as well as the family members, friends and fellow officers they left behind.
In April, 2012 Officer Jaime Padron was shot to death after confronting an armed man inside a north Austin Wal-Mart. Thousands from the “thin blue line” came from around the country for his funeral service. Many more citizens paid tribute along the procession route from Austin as Padron’s body was taken to his native San Angelo for a funeral Mass and burial.
On Monday the name Jaime Padron will be added to the National Law Enforcement Officer's Memorial.
For the law enforcement community the tribute is bittersweet.
"I'm going with all the friends that we all knew together, and also former partners, so we have a good time as far as spending time together,” said APD Officer Henry Aguilar, who knew Padron even before they both joined the Austin force.
“But then at the same time every time we hear the bagpipes and candle lights, and name on the wall, it's kind of like being at the funeral again."
This year the names of 320 officers killed in the line of duty are being added to the national memorial. These 320 officers include Padron and 118 other officers who were killed during 2012, plus 201 officers who died in previous years. Their stories had been lost to history until now.
Padron's parents, siblings and daughters will attend the ceremonies.
"To see the daughters there, that are the most heartbreaking, knowing their dad will never come back," Aguilar said.
APD Officer Rahim Kidd remembers Padron as positive and upbeat while serving together for four years.
"He was the type of friend that, whenever you needed advice he was always there, whenever you needed help, he was always there. People like that are hard to find. And he was that guy,” Kidd said.
Kidd continued, "The last step on this painful journey as far as far as acknowledging him. You know, it's tough. Being with other people who have been through this, we can help each other get through this.”
Veteran cops like Chief Art Acevedo understand the pain.
"Having lost a lot of friends over the last 27 years, it gets better. That's the way we are created. We are made to be able to withstand any tragedy. But this is part of the healing process," said Acevedo.
As Chief Acevedo, Padron's friends and former partners fly off for Washington they carry with them the gratitude of a city.
05-05-13 : Ride for Fallen honors Padron, Trinkle
Plaque dedicated to Padron delivered to APD
Updated: Saturday, 04 May 2013, 10:13 PM CDT
Published : Saturday, 04 May 2013, 10:11 PM CDT
AUSTIN (KXAN) - Austin Police and the Peace Officers Memorial Foundation honored fallen APD officer Jaime Padron Saturday.
The annual Ride for the Fallen made a stop at Austin Police Headquarters and delivered a plaque in Padron’s honor.
Officer Padron was killed in the line of duty in April of 2012, shot in the neck by a man when he responded to a disturbance call at a Walmart.
The Travis County District Attorney is seeking the death penalty for Brandon Daniel, the suspect arrested in Senior Austin Police Officer Jaime Padron's shooting death in April of last year.
The City Council voted in March to rename the police substation in North Austin where Padron was assigned, in his name.
Ride for the Fallen also remembered Capt. Randy Trinkle with A/TCEMS who died December 1, 2012.
Trinkle was heading home to Fredericksburg, after working an overnight shift, when he crashed into another car near a construction site.
Trinlkle had been with A/TCEMS for 15 years. He helped train members of the special operations team and worked with Fredericksburg EMS when needed.
Proceeds from Saturday’s race will benefit the Peace Officer’s Memorial Foundation. POMF provides line of duty death benefits for officers, college scholarships and sponsors the biennial Memorial Service at the State Capitol
04-23-13 : 4 Austin officers shoot, kill armed man n
Acevedo says gunman pointed weapon at officers
Updated: Wednesday, 24 Apr 2013, 8:29 AM CDT
Published : Tuesday, 23 Apr 2013, 9:15 PM CDT
AUSTIN (KXAN) - Four Austin police officers shot and killed a man in Southeast Austin while responding to a call Tuesday night about someone threatening to kill his roommate.
Chief Art Acevedo said the officers responded to the call at 8:40 p.m. in the 700 block of Valdez Street , near Ponca Street, where they encountered a man with a rifle who told them to leave his property. He was on a motorcycle behind the house, then retreated to a shed, the chief said.
At a news conference near the scene, Acevedo said the officers heard the gun cock, then saw the man take aim as he emerged from the shed. All four officers opened fire, the chief said.
The shooting started some 18 minutes after police arrived man was pronounced dead at 9:14 p.m. No officers were hurt and the dead man's name was not released.
Police said one of the officers has three years experience; another has one year of experience, the third officer has been on the force 18 months and the fourth officer had only been working for the department for a month.
All four officers have been placed on administrative leave with pay, which is standard procedure, while the shooting is investigated. Their names were not disclosed.
04-23-13 : Police ID man killed in officer-involved shooting
Says DWI arrest undermined DA's credibility
By Ciara O'Rourke
Officials have identified the man shot and killed Tuesday night after police say he aimed a rifle at officers as Herbert Babelay, 54.
Police responded to a report of a suicidal man in the 700 block of Valdez Street about 9 p.m., officials said. After officers arrived, Babelay appeared on the street on a motorcycle and retreated to a shed at the rear of the house, Police Chief Art Acevedo said. Babelay armed himself with a long rifle and told police to get off his property before retreating again to the shed, Acevedo said.
Soon after, officers said they heard Babelay “charging” the rifle, and when he reappeared, he aimed the weapon at officers. They fired at him at about 8:58 p.m., nearly 20 minutes after they were called to the scene, Acevedo said.
Babelay was pronounced dead at 9:14 p.m.
Neighbors reported hearing between eight and 10 shots.
Four officers involved in the shooting have been placed on administrative leave with pay, Acevedo said.
04-23-13 : Police Association says Lehmberg should resign
Says DWI arrest undermined DA's credibility
Updated: Tuesday, 23 Apr 2013, 9:02 AM CDT
Published : Monday, 22 Apr 2013, 3:39 PM CDT
Austin (KXAN) - Rosemary Lehmberg's arrest and conviction on drunken driven charges have undermined her standing with law enforcement officers and she should step down as district attorney, the head of the Austin Police Association said Monday.
"At this point, it's about the ability of the district attorney to be able to have any credibility with the law enforcement community," APA President Wayne Vincent told KXAN. "And we would prefer if she would resign."
The decision came after members saw jail videoreleased Friday, Vincent said. "There's a lot of talk about the way she treated the officers during the incident."
In the video, Lehmberg is seen kicking a jail cell door and resisted officers, prompting them to restrain her after she was arrested the night on April 12. The video was released the same day Lehmberg entered a guilty plea on the driving while intoxicated charge and began serving her 45-day jail sentence.
Lehmberg, 63, was arrested around 10:45 p.m. by Travis County sheriff's deputies. A wWitnesses said the two-term Democrat was swerving on the Ranch Road 620 and driving on the shoulder. Lehmberg was released on bond Saturday morning
Her blood-alcohol content was measured at 0.239. The level at which someone is driving while intoxicated is .08. She has said that she has no plans to quit her $125,000-a-year job.
"I think representing the officers and being a voice for the officers I think it's time to speak out a little bit ," Vinvent said.
Vincent admitted he didn't think his association's reaction would have been as serious if Lehmberg had cooperated during the traffic stop. The arrest affidavit said she refused to continue with field sobriety tests at one point.
"Our officers have a hard enough time, the County sheriff's (deputies) and the Austin police officers, without having to deal with that kind of behavior from very powerful and influential people," Vincent said.
04-18-13 : High court weighs in on DWI blood tests without a warrant
Texas laws could be affected, officials say.
By Farzad Mashhood and Mike Ward
With a U.S. Supreme Court decision Wednesday placing new restrictions on police taking involuntary blood samples from suspected drunken drivers, Texas officials said that current exceptions in state law could be erased.
As officials and prosecutors began legal research on the effects of the high court’s decision, Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo was among law enforcement leaders who said they will begin requiring warrants anytime a blood sample is drawn from a suspected drunken driver.
“Out of an overabundance of caution, I sent out a message to all of our officers that, effective immediately, we will not rely on (Texas law),” Acevedo said. “We will seek search warrants on all cases until we can further evaluate the Supreme Court’s decision and we come up with additional training on under what circumstances qualify for ‘exigent circumstances.’”
The ruling said in some cases police can take blood without a warrant, but did not define any such exceptions.
Rob Kepple, executive director of the Texas District and County Attorneys Association, said the full effect of Wednesday’s decision will not be known until after prosecutors analyze the 48-page opinion.
The ruling does not affect Austin’s nearly 2-year-old practice of no-refusal initiatives during high-profile events and weekends. During a no-refusal effort, police seek search warrants for suspected drunken drivers who refuse a breath or blood test. A judge is on call through the night to approve such requests from officers.
The vast majority of Austin’s blood draws for drunken drivers are during no-refusal initiatives, Acevedo said.
The Supreme Court ruled 8-1 that officers cannot always take blood samples without a warrant, even though the justices disagreed on when a warrant might not be necessary. The ruling came in a Missouri case in which a driver had challenged a warrantless blood draw, saying it constituted unreasonable search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Missouri state police had administered the test after the driver refused to submit to a breath test.
It’s not clear what will happen to pending drunken driving cases where the defendant’s blood was drawn without consent or a search warrant, said Assistant Travis County District Attorney Scott Taliaferro.
Acevedo said he believes the ruling won’t affect pending cases because it is overturning state law. But Lynn Blais, a University of Texas law professor who co-authored a brief supporting the Missouri man, said the ruling upheld the Fourth Amendment’s protection against searches without a judge’s permission and that blood draws were not legal before and should not be admitted as evidence in the future.
Taliaferro said prosecutors will evaluate on a case-by-case basis whether to use blood drawn without consent or a search warrant as evidence. Officials said they didn’t know how many pending cases in Travis County or statewide depend on involuntary blood samples.
Under Texas law, officials said, several circumstances allow for a blood test without a warrant: in a crash with a death or serious injury; when children are in the vehicle; when the suspect has two or more drunken driving convictions; or when the suspect has a single previous conviction for intoxication assault, intoxication manslaughter or drunken driving with a child passenger, among others. Austin and other cities typically require warrants, but a few cities still routinely allow warrantless tests — a practice that most lawmakers and prosecutors said will surely be halted by Wednesday’s opinion.
Former Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley said that in recent years, as state law allowing the warrantless draws had expanded, the standard practice was for officers to skip getting a judge’s approval in felonies. “The only time we were getting warrants for blood was on misdemeanors,” Bradley said.
Warrantless blood tests have been allowed under state law in some circumstances for more than a decade, officials said, and were expanded two years ago at the urging of police and prosecutors. State Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, who authored bills that expanded the exceptions, said he had not read the court’s opinion.
“But I will, and we will make whatever changes are necessary,” Patrick said.
04-02-13 : Honoring Padron a year after his death
N. Austin station to be renamed for slain officer
Updated: Friday, 05 Apr 2013, 4:03 PM CDT
Published : Friday, 05 Apr 2013, 3:09 PM CDT
AUSTIN (KXAN) - The police substation not far from where Jaime Padron was gunned down while responding to a call will be named in the senior police officer's honor in a formal ceremony Saturday -- the one-year anniversary of his death.
The facility at 12425 Lamplight Village, east of the intersection of Parmer Lane and MoPac Boulevard, will be called the Jaime Padron Police Station. The ceremony starts at 10 a.m.
Photos: Jaime Padron's legacy
Padron, 40, was answering an early morning call on April 6, 2012, about someone acting erratically inside the Walmart store at Parmer Lane and Interstate 35. When he approached the man, Brandon Daniel, the officer was shot in the neck and died from the injury.
Daniel, now 25, reportedly had been drinking heavily and under the influence of Xanax in the hours before the shooting.
Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehhmberg said in November that she will seek the death penalty for Daniel.
Padron's death shocked Austin and police expressed gratitude as the city and its people rallied to the department's support. Last week on Good Friday, members of the Police Department assembled at the Walmart at the same predawn hour that Padron was gunned down for a prayer vigil. Padron was killed on Good Friday 2012.
Police are asking residents once more to express their support for Padron and his memory. Officers have made a Facebook banner paying homage to the officer and are asking people to use it as their Facebook cover photo to mark the anniversary. It's Photo 2 above this report.
A former Marine, Officer Padron had been with APD for more than three years. Prior to that, he had been a Austin Bergstrom International Airport police officer and had served 14 years with the San Angelo Police Department. He left behind two daughters.
Itinerary for the event:
- 10 a.m. Memorial Garden Unveiling
- 10:20 a.m. APD Pipe and Drum/Presentation of the Colors
- 10:30 a.m. Benediction by Pastor Rick Randall
- 10:35 a.m. Dedication Ceremony to include remarks by Mayor Lee Leffingwell, members of the Austin City Council, City Manager Marc Ott, Police Chief Art Acevedo and a Padron family member. Commander Mark Spangler will serve as emcee.
- 10:50 a.m. Plaque Unveiling/Pipe and Drum Corps music
04-02-13 : APD seeking nearly 100 additional officers
Policy study says department is understaffed
Updated: Tuesday, 02 Apr 2013, 8:00 AM CDT
Published : Monday, 01 Apr 2013, 4:06 PM CDT
AUSTIN (KXAN) - Austin Police Department needs some 166 additional officers to keep up with the city's population and its place as venue for events that bring in people from all over the world.
That's the word from a study by the Police Executive Research forum that examined Austin's law enforcement needs based on a wide range of criteria. The study also finds that the need for added staffing will continue to grow over the next four years.
The city's public safety commission was expected to take up the matter Monday evening.
"For a number of years the City has used 'two per thousand' as its benchmark for minimum police staffing," the study says. "The city’s population in April 2012 was listed as 824,205 which would dictate that the sworn staffing of the Austin Police Department be authorized at a minimum of 1,648."
The study goes on to say that the ratio should not be viewed as a hard-and-fast rule because how officers are deployed varies from department to department.
"One department might have officers assigned to the dispatch function and as crime scene technicians, while others use civilians to perform these functions," the study says. "One jurisdiction might be large in area with room for growth. Another might be smaller and hemmed in by suburbs.
"One city may have very different crime problems from another. Consequently, approaches to determining the appropriate size of a given city’s police department should be based on an assessment of that agency and the work it needs to perform in its community."
03-28-13 :North Austin police substation is named for Padron
Senior officer killed on duty nearly a year ago
Updated: Thursday, 28 Mar 2013, 1:22 PM CDT
Published : Thursday, 28 Mar 2013, 10:37 AM CDT
AUSTIN (KXAN) - The City Council voted Thursday to rename the police substation in North Austin for Jaime Padron, the senior officer who was killed in the line of duty nearly a year ago while responding to a disturbance call at department store.
The facility is at 12425 Lamplight Village, east of the intersection of Parmer Lane and MoPac Boulevard. Padron was assigned to the station at the time of his death.
Padron, 40, was answering an early morning call on April 6, 2012, about someone acting erratically inside a Walmart store. When he approached the man, Brandon Daniel, the officer was shot in the neck and died from the injury.
Daniel, now 25, reportedly had been drinking heavily and under the influence of Xanax in the hours before the shooting.
Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehhmberg said in November that she will seek the death penalty for Daniel.
A former Marine, Officer Padron had been with APD for more than three years. Prior to that, he had been a Austin Bergstrom International Airport police officer and had served 14 years with the San Angelo Police Department. He left behind two daughters.
The substation will be formally renamed the Jaime Padron Police Station on the one-year anniversary of the officer's death.
03-28-13 :Suit dismissed against officers in Big Lots shooting
Judge says officer acted within bounds of law
Updated: Thursday, 28 Mar 2013, 2:42 PM CDT
Published : Thursday, 28 Mar 2013, 12:47 PM CDT
AUSTIN (KXAN) - The federal lawsuit filed against Austin police in the Oct. 1, 2010, deadly shooting of a 16-year-old boy was dismissed this week with the judge saying the officer had reason to believe his life was in danger.
U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks said in his ruling that although Officer James Bowman may have fired at least some at Devin Contreras during an alleged robbery at a South Austin Big Lots department store, the law gives officers the discretion they need in life-and-death situations.
Police shot Devin Contreras during an alleged robbery that he and John Michael Rodriguez, 19, were caught committing on Oct. 1. Surveillance video released from the store showed the robbery in action.
"It might have been a mistake to keep shooting after (Devin Contreras) turned to run," Sparks wrote. "It was almost certainly a mistake to continue shooting once (Contreras) was prone on the ground. However, the law does not require perfect and unerring judgment from police officers in dangerous, rapidly developing circumstances such as were present here."
A grand jury declined to indict Bowman in February 2011.
Albert Contreras said when his family filed the lawsui t in 2011 that he believed the video showed his son was trying to run away from officers. His attorney, Bobby Taylor, had said they would continue to evaluate the video before deciding if they will take any legal action -- something we now know will happen.
The suit claimed Bowman used excessive force, with actions that were "intentional and done with conscious indifference to the rights, safety and suffering of D. R. Contreras." It also said Bowen "intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly made contact with" Contreras with "imminent bodily injury."
The suit alleged Bowen's conduct "constituted negligent training and retention" -- adding that the chief of police and the city "did not properly screen, evaluate, investigate, or take any reasonable steps to determine" Bowen was "unfit, incompetent, or a danger to third parties."
In addition, the suit alleges that the department and city should have foreseen that the officer "would/might possibly come in contact" with Contreras, "creating a risk of danger."
03-23-13 :Austin police change recruit criteria
Applicants no longer need college credit
Updated: Saturday, 23 Mar 2013, 8:20 AM CDT
Published : Friday, 22 Mar 2013, 10:05 PM CDT
Austin (KXAN) - Austin’s police chief has changed recruit application requirements in order to attract the broadest range of future police officers possible in a fast-growing city where hiring is a constant game of catch-up.
Amidst the pomp and ceremony of Friday’s latest police cadet graduation, Chief Art Acevedo told KXAN he recently decided to abandon a requirement for police academy applicants to have a minimum of 32 college credits or two years’ military service.
“It just opens the door for those that want to come to the top in the hiring process. There’s no magic formula as to who would be a good cop,” he said. “We’ll take a look at everybody.”
He admitted most applicants have some college education, but he said he values life experience as much as a young person who has only book knowledge and no responsibilities.
“I’d rather have either somebody that has formal education or life experience -- people with life experience that have worked hard for a living, that see how challenging life is,” he added.
He’s talking about people like 42 year-old former Round Rock high school teacher Brenda Glasgow. Her husband is already an Austin police officer and she was ready to take her level of community service to a whole new level, calling Austin’s intense 32-week academy ‘challenging.’
“Being a teacher for 20 years, I knew how to study. The academic part was the easier part for me,” she told KXAN.
For another graduate, a former carpenter and mixed martial arts fighter Adam Ganshirt, the Austin Police Academy was equivalent to going after a college diploma. He said he was glad he secured the college credit that was still needed at the time he applied. Call it sage advice from someone who says he didn’t study hard in high school.
“The (Austin Police Academy) academics are pretty tough. And I think if I hadn’t gone through the college I went through prior, I might have struggled,” he said.
From an academic perspective, the Chief says the Academy’s intense 8-month course load actually compares to a college endeavor. He points out earning a Texas peace officer’s license (something every law enforcement officer in the state must do), candidates must complete 618 hours of training, both in the classroom and hands-on like firearms and driving training.
But APD’s course totals more than 1200 hours and includes 40 hours of Spanish classes along with the finer points of community policing.
As well, APD worked out a deal with Austin Community College where Police Academy graduates come away with the equivalent of 24 credits.
As a part of changing the entry requirements, the Chief told KXAN the department has increased the minimum passing score on the Nelson-Denny test. It's used to measure people's ability to successfully complete the academy.
In the nick of time
And the Chief says the new hires are coming in the nick of time. Last year, a study by the Police Executive Research Forum recommended by 2017, APD should add:
- -155 patrol officers
- -78 detectives and
- -24 sergeants
That's a total of 257 positions to keep up with population growth.
Another Austin Police Academy, made up of modified recruits, officers from other jurisdictions with experience, is due to graduate in May.
The City of Austin’s website says the city is currently taking applications for police cadet classes due to begin in January and April of 2014.
03-23-13: Austin police, public can handle complaints in mediation
By Ciara O'Rourke
Rudeness, profanity and inadequate police service are among the allegations that can now lead to a mediation session between Austin police officers and the members of the public who complain about them, according to Police Department policy.
The recently implemented alternative to an internal affairs investigation that follows a complaint from the public against an officer has so far been little used, but both Police Monitor Margo Frasier and the Austin Police Association are supportive of the option.
“I think it’s healthy that a police officer and a complainant sit across from each other and explain both of their perspectives,” Police Association President Wayne Vincent said.
Only external complaints the Police Department labels “Class B,” which involve less serious violations of department policies and procedures, are eligible for mediation with the approval of an internal affairs lieutenant or commander, according to department policy.
Both the police officer and the people complaining also must agree to participate.
The first mediation happened with a Dispute Resolution Center mediator in February, but Sacheen Yates, a complaint specialist and mediation coordinator with the police monitor’s office, said she could not elaborate because the sessions are confidential.
“Avoid temptation to blame or attack,” advises a city of Austin pamphlet advertising mediation as a means to address complaints. “Casting blame or antagonizing others is most likely to just make them defensive, or push them to fight back, rather than encouraging them to really listen to you and see your point of view.”
Julie O’Brien, commander over the Police Department’s professional standards division, said the conclusion of the mediation session ends the formal complaint process.
Last year, internal affairs investigated 14 Class B complaints from the public, the fewest in the past five years, with as many as 51 in 2008, according to Police Department data.
Given the opportunity, O’Brien said she’d prefer to address a conflict or misunderstanding with a member of the public by explaining her perspective and hearing his or hers in mediation.
“I think it’s of tremendous value in types of cases where it’s appropriate,” she said.
Class B complaints by the public against Austin officers
Year Number of complaints
Source: Austin Police Department
03-01-13: Officer kills man who refused to give up gun, chief says
Man shot pit bull before police arrived
Updated: Friday, 01 Mar 2013, 5:29 PM CST
Published : Friday, 01 Mar 2013, 8:16 AM CST
AUSTIN (KXAN) - An Austin police officer shot and killed a man in North Austin on Friday morning after the man refused to put away the pistol he had used to kill a dog, Police Chief Art Acevedo said.
APD confirmed John Schaefer, 70, was killed during the incident.
Police were called to a house in the 10000 block of Lanshire Drive in North Austin on Friday around 7:30 a.m., the chief told reporters at the shooting scene.
Schaefer had called police saying he had just shot and killed a dog. Schaefer said the dog had attacked him. The dispatcher asked him to return to his home and let police take over once they arrived, Acevedo said. When the officer arrived, Schaefer had the semiautomatic pistol tucked into his waistband, the chief said.
Schaefer was told to give up the gun, but instead drew it on the officer, Acevedo said. The officer then drew his gun and fired. The man was pronounced dead around 7:45 a.m., Acevedo said.
"When an officer tries to secure a weapon, you cannot draw and aim at an officer and not expect that officer to defend himself," Acevedo said.
The officer involved is a three-year member of the Austin Police Department, Acevedo said. He will be placed on administrative leave, which is standard procedure.
A woman who calls herself Lena lives three houses down from where the shooting happened. She walked outside and witnessed the confrontation.
"Him and the guy were in close proximity," said Lena. "And he had no other choice but to protect himself. The guy didn't want to put the gun down."
The shooting will be investigated by the police department's internal affairs office, the Travis County District Attorney's Office and the Office of Police Monitor, Acevedo said. That, also, is routine.
"No one ever goes to work as police officers ever wanting to do this and in this case my officer is shaken up," said Acevedo. "Despite the fact that he was confronted by an armed subject that was threatening him."
The residential area was sealed off with crime scene tape. Several squad cars and the police command post truck were in the area.
Premier High School, which is about a half-mile from the area, was placed on immediate lockdown, officials said.
01-28-13: Earnings of police pension trustees questioned
By Tony Plohetski
Last September, a growing local investment firm hired the chairman of the Austin Police Retirement System to help entice other public pension programs nationwide to do business with them.
Less than a month later, the retirement system board did just that: It voted to invest up to $18.5 million with the same company that was employing its chairman, retired Lt. Pete Morin.
It was not the first high-dollar business deal between the retirement system and a company employing a pension board member.
An American-Statesman investigation has identified nearly $40 million in approved investments during the past seven years with firms that were privately employing two trustees for the fund — hired to use their knowledge and experience with those same businesses to market them to other potential investors.
The board members — Morin and Kendall Thomas, a retired assistant Austin police chief and founding father of the system — point out that they disclosed their relationships and abstained from voting, and that, in each instance, the system was continuing a series of investments with those companies.
Such arrangements aren’t illegal in Texas for municipal retirement fund trustees. But other states have laws prohibiting such dual roles, and some Texas pension systems also have adopted local ethics rules for trustees that don’t allow them to work for companies doing business with the fund. Not the Austin Police Retirement System.
Pension system experts said such arrangements are highly unusual and troublesome.
As fiduciaries, public pension board members are charged to act solely in the interest of the participants of the pension plan,” said Keith Brainard, a Georgetown resident who is the research director for the National Association of State Retirement Administrators. “Working for a firm that is hired by the same board violates the fiduciary duty of loyalty to plan participants.”
Thomas, 80, said he he didn’t think the dual roles, as a contract employee with a Houston real estate company and an Austin police retirement system trustee, posed a conflict.
Otherwise, “I wouldn’t have done it,” he said. “Everything we have done in the way of outside employment has gone through attorneys and been approved.”
Morin, 54, who is currently earning at least $60,000 from one of the companies, said he has found his nonpaid, voluntary position on the pension board useful in obtaining private work.
People use their talents, experience and positions to advance their careers all the time,” he wrote in an email to the American-Statesman. “Being in the right place at the right time creates opportunities for us all!!”
No ban on such work
The $526.9 million Austin police pension system was developed in 1980 to provide retirement, death and disability benefits to its members. It has 626 current benefit recipients and about 1,700 active members who give a portion of their wages to the fund. Austin taxpayers also contribute about 21 percent of the department’s payroll for officers to the system.
Thomas and Morin are among the system’s 11 board members, which include seven current and retired police officers who are elected to four-year terms; three trustees are appointed city officials, including a City Council member; and one community member is appointed by the board.
Most board members declined to comment about the arrangements involving Morin and Thomas. However, Michael Jung, an Austin police commander, said Morin and Thomas “are in compliance with the law, and my understanding is that they excused themselves from any business dealings (the pension system) had with those companies that they worked for.”
Trustee Art Alfaro, who represents the city manager’s office on the board, said he doesn’t necessarily object to such arrangements but thinks such deals could be more closely reviewed by the system.
“I think it is something the board needs to discuss, so going forward, we will have explored it and say either, ‘We are OK with it’ or ‘we will put some policies in place,’” Alfaro said.
“I agree with them looking at what other pension boards do, and see what they have in place, to see if there are other policies or procedures we might want to consider,” said Council Member Kathie Tovo, who represents the City Council on the board.
The Austin Police Retirement System has never chosen to develop such a policy for its trustees because “it’s never been an issue,” Morin said. Thomas added that “I guess we never saw the need for it.”
But some municipal pension plans in Texas have developed internal ethics policies for board members that experts said might be more strict than state law. Such policies appear to address such potential conflicts.
William Stefka, administrator for the Austin Firefighters Relief and Retirement Fund, cited several provisions in that system’s code of ethics, which prohibits trustees from accepting any personal gain from the action of the board, for instance.
Jonathan Needle, chief legal officer for the Houston Firefighters’ Relief and Retirement Fund, said prospective board members must file financial disclosure statements prior to running for a trustee position, saying whether they work for a company doing business with the system.
“If they are, that doesn’t disqualify them, but it would be noticed,” Needle said. “The membership would be aware, and that could be a big problem for them. That would kind of take care of itself.”
Legal and financial experts said such arrangements highlight the intersection of laws, ethics codes and the appearance of conflicts of interest.
While such deals might be legal for the Austin Police Retirement System board members, who watch over a municipal retirement fund, state laws have a different stance for state pension boards. State law doesn’t allow trustees for the Texas employees or teachers retirement system to be “employed by, or participate in, the management of a business entity or other organization receiving funds from the retirement system.”
The arrangement also blurs the line of how much Morin and Thomas have relied on the Austin police pension to pitch their employer’s investment to other potential clients.
“Generally, conflicts are just not a very good idea,” said Charles Elson, a nationally known professor in the finance department at the University of Delaware. “When things like this happen, it causes all kinds of questions to be raised, and the fact that the questions are raised is sometimes more important than the actual conflict. It interferes in the confidence of the system.”
In most instances, the retirement system voted to make an investment with one of three companies in the months or weeks after Morin and Thomas went to work for them.
Thomas was the first to enter into such an arrangement — with the Houston real estate company in 2005. He said he first learned about the McAlister Real Estate Company in the mid-2000s, when the company sought an investment from the Austin system.
Thomas said he started working for the company several months later, connecting executives with public pension fund representatives.
“I introduced them, and (McAlister) did all the sales,” he said.
Thomas said he was paid a commission based on the size of any contribution to the McAlister fund. But he stressed he never earned money directly from Austin’s investments. “I will never receive any past, present or future commission from any transaction involving the McAlister Company and the Austin Police Retirement System,” his disclosure statement said.
Five months after Thomas went to work for McAlister, the board voted to make its fourth investment with the company — up to $7.5 million for development properties in and around Houston. Thomas didn’t vote then, or the next year when the board approved another $5 million investment with McAlister, or in 2007 when trustees invested $3.5 million with the company, records show.
It is unclear when his employment with McAlister ended or how much he earned from the company.
Morin began working for a company with whom the Austin pension system invested in March 2009. He said CapitalSpring, a New York firm, approached him during a conference in New Orleans about a job marketing the company to other pension systems.
“If Kendall could do it, why couldn’t Pete Morin do it?” Morin recalled thinking. “I had an opportunity to do this, and I’m going to take advantage of it.”
According to pension records, Morin earned a $6,000 per month retainer, plus a percentage of what pension investors contributed to any CapitalSpring fund.
Four months after Morin signed the employment contract, the retirement system board he chairs approved a $5 million investment through CapitalSpring into fast-food restaurants such as Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr., said pension administrator Sam Jordan. Morin didn’t vote on the deal.
Morin’s employment with the company ended in March 2010.
Last year, Morin took his current job — marketing the Austin-based World Class Capital Group, earning a $60,000 salary in exchange for introductions to pension funds.
Morin said he approached a company official about going to work for them. “I said, ‘I’d like to help you raise money,’ and he said, ‘Let’s do it,’” Morin said.
“I love real estate, and it’s an opportunity for me to make some money, quite honestly.”
World Class Capital Group and CapitalSpring officials didn’t return calls seeking comment.
Morin said he sought the opinion of Florida attorney Robert Klausner, who represents the Austin police pension system, before accepting the employment.
Klausner said in an interview with the American-Statesman that the appearance of a possible conflict “is a matter for the constituents of the plan to be most concerned about. It is not illegal, and my job is not to opine on good, bad or otherwise or whether it is good policy or bad policy. My question is are we doing anything illegal, and the answer is no.”
One month after Morin began his employment, the system board voted to invest up to $18.5 million with World Class Capital. About $12 million was for a Los Angeles office building and $6.5 million was for an Ohio storage unit portfolio, according to the minutes.
The Los Angeles deal eventually fell through, Jordan said.
Last week, after being contacted by the American-Statesman, Morin sent an email to both retired and currently employed pension system members explaining his arrangement and reiterating his contributions. He also has pointed out that the investments have enjoyed good returns.
“I have always put the interest of our retirement system first,” he wrote. “I have dedicated countless hours of my time, energy and personal resources in making (the Austin Police Retirement System) one of the best retirement systems in the nation. We have a lot of work ahead of us, and with your support, I plan to continue working hard for all the members, widows and beneficiaries of this plan.”
01-28-13: Austin Police Department's use of force climbing
By Eric Dexheimer and Tony Plohetski
Austin police report they are using physical force in more of their encounters with the public, an American-Statesman analysis of 3½ years of internal police data shows.
The steady increase in the reported cases in which officers use a weapon or their hands to compel compliance has occurred even as the number of times police come into contact with the public has steadily fallen during the same period. Arrests, too, dropped 15 percent between 2009 and 2011.
The result: Austin police’s reported incidence of force — the likelihood officers used some form of physical coercion during arrests — jumped more than 80 percent between 2009 and 2011, the paper’s analysis found.
In 2011, Austin police reported using force in 1,686 incidents — an average of 4.5 times every day of the year. Many of those cases had more than one officer using force, occasionally on more than one person. A large number occurred downtown.
The Statesman analyzed reports from the first three calendar years following a June 1, 2008, policy change. Prior to that, officers only had to report more serious types of force, but the new policy required Austin police to report all incidents of physical confrontation with the public. Commanders say the climbing numbers represent better reporting by officers responding to the directive, although the policy hasn’t changed since then.
They also argue that a more aggressive public is pushing officers to respond in kind. “The level of resistance against officers on the street has increased,” said Chief Art Acevedo.
If so, that would buck national and regional statistics.
In the past, the city’s police department has come under scrutiny for using disproportionate or excessive force during individual arrests. In 2007, the U.S. Department of Justice initiated an investigation following citizen complaints.
Last year, however, the federal justice agency concluded that Austin police as a department didn’t use more force than necessary in its encounters with the public and had sufficient safeguards in place to punish officers who do wrong. In recent years, the number of Austin citizens who complain of excessive force has leveled off at about two dozen a year, less than half of what it was in 2007, according to the Police Monitor’s Office, a citizen agency that receives such complaints and provides feedback to the department.
But the federal investigation didn’t address officers’ frequency of force use. Experts say that’s because there is no national standard by which to judge such numbers. Nor is there a common set of guidelines that different departments use to count and compare force incidents, or even what “force” means. Consequently, there is little agreement or even understanding of the point at which a police department might be using force too often in its encounters with the public.
To their credit, experts say, Austin police use a broad definition of force when reporting incidents, including everything from a tackle to a gunshot. Yet even taking that into account, the city’s reported rise in police use of force appears to be moving it in the opposite direction of comparable cities.
In Portland, Ore., police use of force incidents have plunged steeply in recent years. In Sacramento, Calif., the number of such incidents by police has remained steady the past three years. In Charlotte, N.C., Seattle and Fort Worth, incidents of force use by police have either stayed steady or dropped.
On a recent Saturday night in December, police officers blanketed the streets in the heart of downtown Austin’s most vibrant party areas — Sixth Street, the Fourth Street warehouse district and a stretch of bars and clubs on West Seventh Street, between Congress Avenue and Lamar Boulevard. The 2-square-mile sector is staffed by 58 officers, who patrol by foot, bicycle, horses and car — the city’s densest concentration of police by far.
The officers do everything from give directions to revelers to look for suspicious behavior and provide a visible presence they hope will deter crime. Over the course of a shift, they regularly respond to 911 calls for weaving drunks, bar fights and muggings — incidents that become more common around 2 a.m. as bars close and intoxicated patrons spill onto the street.
Frequently, officers said they must use force to break up fights. “It’s the nature of the work down here,” said senior police officer Robert Padilla. “People drinking tend to not think before they act. You can’t just sit there and watch them.”
Police in 2011 reported physically engaging citizens in the core entertainment district on more than 700 occasions — nearly twice every day of the year. In all, the EastSixth Street district accounted for about a quarter of all the police department’s use of force incidents in a given year.
Acevedo said that’s hardly a surprise. On weekends downtown, “all you will hear is sirens — drunks fighting, people passed out,” he said. “That huge entertainment district is a driver for us.”
Many of the encounters are chaotic. In a March 2011 incident on EastSixth Street, records show, six officers each filed force reports after mixing it up with six young men. Before the call was over, according to the reports, police had used a stun gun, pepper spray and weaponless hand tactics.
“You have your people who flex up because they want to challenge the police,” said officer Hector Ramirez as he patrolled the area.
Such police-versus-public encounters are increasingly common, according to the Statesman’sanalysis. From 2009 to 2011, the number of police use of force reports generated by officers working in the police district that makes up the heart of downtown’s entertainment area surged 92 percent. In the part of the entertainment district closest to Interstate 35, the number of incidents in which Austin police reported resorting to force jumped 150 percent.
It’s not the only place where police are using force in greater numbers, according to a review of the reports. In the police district centered around South First Street and Slaughter Lane, use of force reports were up 163 percent.
West of Decker Lake, in far East Austin, they climbed 192 percent, and in the Southeast Austin neighborhood centered around Riverside Drive east of Pleasant Valley Road force incidents reported by police nearly tripled over the past three years. Police reported using force in their interactions with citizens in the North Austin neighborhood around Rundberg Lane and Lamar Boulevard more in the first five months of 2012 than in all of 2009.
Administrators said areas that saw increases in force use also were locations with high, or growing crime. “We’re real active in those neighborhoods,” said Assistant Chief Brian Manley.
Police also are reporting using force more often on citizens with mental illness, noting 305 such encounters in 2011 — about 50 percent more than just two years earlier. Figures gathered for the first five months of 2012 show that the department is on pace to see another 50 percent jump over 2011. Austin police say the trend reflects the surging number of times they are summoned to calls involving citizens with mental illnesses.
In 2004, the American-Statesman reported that minorities — and African-Americans in particular — were more likely to have force used against them than white citizens. While changes in reporting policy prevent direct comparisons, that is still true, although in the most recent analysis the numbers appear less dramatic.
Overall, Austin police reported using force at a rate of about 3.2 percent of all arrests in 2011. For African-Americans, who are arrested generally at a rate disproportionately higher than their population, the rate is 3.6 percent.
Finally, the paper’s review showed a handful of Austin police officers consistently use force at a rate considerably higher than most. Officers who used force between 2009 and 2011 filed an average of three such reports per year.
But 21 Austin police officers each reported using force 40 or more times in the past 3½ years. Six of the officers had single years during which they reported 30 or more force incidents; one filed 71 use of force reports from the beginning of 2009 to mid-2012. Each worked primarily in the entertainment district.
No national standard
Experts say that, more than any other single factor, use of force incidents can define a police department’s relationship with the citizens it serves. That makes it all the more surprising there is no meaningful way to measure one department’s force incidents against another’s, or a single standard by which to judge performance.
“We’ve been trying for years to have a national standard or reporting consistency,” said Geoff Alpert, a University of South Carolina criminal justice professor who studies use of force issues. That is particularly true with incidents involving nonlethal force — stun guns, pepper spray, hand strikes, batons and so on. “We know a lot more about when an officer decides to pull the trigger than when an officer takes a swing,” Alpert said.
As a result, apples-to-apples comparisons between departments “are impossible,” said John Firman, co-director of the Use of Force Project for the International Association of Chiefs of Police.
For starters, the most common measurement of force incidence — use of force per arrest — can be skewed by arrest data. Different cities arrest citizens for different offenses and at varying rates, depending on local policy. Portland, Ore., police make no arrests for marijuana possession, for instance.
The most common difference, however, is what different departments consider a use of force. “Every police department has a little bit different definition,” said Steven Brandl, a University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee criminal justice professor who produces an annual report for the Milwaukee police department.
In Portland, an officer is considered to have used force not only if he manhandles a suspect, but also if he simply points his gun at a citizen, regardless of whether or not he ever pulls the trigger. In Milwaukee, an incident is labeled forceful only if a weapon is used or if one of the parties complains of an injury.
Such differences can greatly skew comparisons. In 2011, with a population roughly comparable to Austin, Fort Worth’s police department reported 288 uses of force; Sacramento showed 216 and Charlotte had 471. Austin police reported nearly 1,700 incidents over the same period.
Acevedo said a big reason that Austin’s use of force has climbed in recent years is because officers are becoming better at reporting such incidents. There is no way to measure that, however. Austin’s force reporting rules haven’t changed in the 4½ years since June 2008, following the Justice Department investigation, which recommended broad reforms.
Alcohol a factor
Finding an explanation for Austin’s swelling number of force reports is difficult. Researchers say that in the overwhelming majority of cases, police deploy force in response to their subjects’ behavior.
“In all the studies we’ve done, the initial use of force is in reaction to suspects’ action or provocation,” Alpert said. Added Sgt. Pete Simpson of the Portland Police Department, “We’re not encountering sewing circles.”
So Acevedo and some others say it stands to reason that if officers are reporting using more force, it’s because people are behaving more aggressively toward police. “Every city I’ve looked at, I’ve seen more assaults” against police, said Alpert.
Austin Police Department figures show a 30 percent increase, or about 150 more cases of resistance against its officers in 2011 than in 2009. Nationally, assaults on law enforcement officers dropped 10 percent between 2007 and 2011, according to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports. Locally, use of force reports filed by the Travis County Sheriff’s Department — deputies file only if someone is injured or a weapon was used — dropped slightly between 2009 and 2011.
Another possible reason for Austin’s high force reporting numbers is that most physical altercations occur when a suspect is being taken into custody — and, while precise comparisons are difficult, Austin police report arresting people far more often than officers in similarly sized cities. In Portland, police make about 30,000 arrests every year; Fort Worth’s officers arrest about 38,000 annually, Charlotte about 27,000.
Last year, by comparison, Austin police reported nearly 59,000 arrests — 160 every day. In 2009, the number was 69,000.
Put another way, Austin arrests equal about 7.5 percent of its total population — double the ratio in Charlotte and 50 percent higher than in Portland and Sacramento. The rate is higher even than Dallas’s 5.9 percent.
Local police are particularly aggressive when it comes to alcohol-related detentions. Officers in Travis County — the vast majority Austin police — file about 7,000 DWI cases a year, more than any other Texas county except Harris, which includes Houston, according to the state Office of Court Administration. (The Statesman has reported that about 30 percent of the cases were dropped because prosecutors said the evidence was too weak to take the case to court.)
The city’s policy of flooding the downtown entertainment area with officers also means a commensurately high volume of arrests. “Officer presence deters more crime,” said Shannon Edmonds, governmental relations director for the Texas District and County Attorneys Association, which represents prosecutors. “But it also results in more arrests.”
Many of those arrests are alcohol-related. Since 2007, Austin police have filed about 6,000 public intoxication cases each year — an average of 16 every day.
Because the definition of intoxication is up to the individual arresting officer, defense attorneys have questioned if many of the arrests are necessary. “The numbers are completely absurd,” said Austin lawyer Mindy Montford. “I think it tends to be a crowd control technique.”
While it isn’t clear how many public intoxication arrests required force, what is clear is that officers who reported using force along Sixth Street said their subjects were intoxicated in more than 80 percent of the incidents. The highest intoxication rate was in the zone encompassing West Campus — about 85 percent of force subjects were reported to be drunk. Citywide, the number of intoxicated subjects on whom officers used force doubled between 2009 and 2011.
The Statesman’s analysis of city reports also shows what some experts say could be a potential red flag: Of the 4,600 subjects who had force used against them by Austin police since 2009, 699 — about 1 in 7 — weren’t subsequently arrested.
“If there’s use of force without arrests, that could be a problem,” said Alpert. “I’d want to know what’s going on there.” He said the large number suggests that police could be using physical force against citizens in instances that don’t merit it.
Manley said it was difficult to account for all those cases. But he said it was rare for police to use force without making an arrest, so many of the incidents likely included juveniles released to their parents or defendants cited with a crime but released without being detained.
Acevedo points to Austin’s low crime rate as evidence the department’s approach was producing results. He noted that the city was recently named the country’s third-safest large metropolis.
01-15-13: Police name suspect in Monday police shootout
By Patrick Beach
Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo on Tuesday identified the man involved in the Monday robbery of an armored car driver and subsequent shootout with two Austin police officers, one of whom was wounded, as Mark Fruge, 51.
Fruge is charged with two counts of aggravated robbery, three counts of attempted capital murder and one count of aggravated kidnapping.
The injured officer, Roosevelt Granderson, had surgery to remove a glass fragment in his knee Tuesday morning, Acevedo said. Granderson, an APD officer since 2009, could be released from the hospital today, Acevedo said. Granderson also has fractures in his knee.
Police said that on Monday Fruge attacked a cash courier at the Fallas Discount Store in Capital Plaza in East Austin shortly after 3 p.m. Fruge took a weapon and bag of cash from the unidentified courier, police said. When a cashier in the store began screaming, police said Fruge fired three rounds from a semiautomatic pistol before fleeing in his vehicle.
Granderson and Officer Aaron Pippin, driving separate vehicles, caught up with Fruge in the 7100 block of Ed Bluestein Boulevard. Fruge shot at both officers and both vehicles, police said. Granderson and Pippin returned fire but Fruge was not struck and was able to flee into a wooded area, Acevedo said.
“We have evidence to show he absolutely took aim at both of those officers and attempted to take their lives,” Acevedo said.
Police said that Fruge then carjacked a vehicle in the 6700 block of Manor Road and ordered the driver to take him to an apartment complex in the 9300 block of U.S. 290 East. Officers were waiting for him, and he was arrested without further incident, police said.
Officers seized a 10-mm pistol and cash.
Acevedo said Fruge’s photo would not be released until witnesses have an opportunity to participate in a photo lineup. Without elaborating, Acevedo said that Fruge has an extensive criminal history, “one that would indicate he has not learned and does not belong out here in this community.”
The chief praised the restraint his officers used in apprehending Fruge at the end of the chase.
“They knew they had a suspect that was armed,” Acevedo said. “They knew they had a suspect that was absolutely bent on getting away, that had attempted to kill two cops. As far as they knew, one cop had already been shot. And that suspect, who was armed and dangerous, was taken into custody without the use of deadly force.”
12-25-12: Houston McCoy, police officer who shot UT Tower sniper Charles Whitman, dies
By Ricardo Gandara
Houston McCoy, the Austin police officer who stopped University of Texas Tower sniper Charles Whitman more than 46 years ago, died early Thursday afternoon in a rest home in his hometown of Menard. He was 72.
McCoy died from complications of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, caused by many years of smoking, said his daughter Monika McCoy.
McCoy would have hated the first sentence of this obituary because it mentions Whitman.
In an interview with the American-Statesman in April 2011, he vehemently requested that Whitman — whom he didn’t call by name but referred to as “the sniper” — not be included in his final story. “But I guess you have to do that, mention the incident,” McCoy said. “Just be sure to say that I was not the only police officer there that day. It was teamwork.
“And, I do not want what I did that day to define me,” he said.
But that dark day in Austin history followed McCoy all his life. On Aug. 1, 1966, the 25-year-old Whitman fatally shot 14 people, including Austin police officer Billy Speed, and wounded 32 others until McCoy and fellow officer Ramiro Martinez both fired shots that stopped him. McCoy’s blast from a 12-gauge shotgun hit Whitman in the face, and, according to the autopsy, the fatal wounds were to Whitman’s head and heart.
A bullet from Martinez’s .38-caliber handgun also hit Whitman. Martinez also grabbed McCoy’s shotgun and shot Whitman one more time as he lay on the ground.
The frantic moments on the observation deck and who did what and when have been rehashed, researched and analyzed by history buffs and family. It’s generally accepted that it was McCoy’s shotgun blast that felled Whitman. But Martinez shot him, too, and initially got the credit until about 1970, when then-Police Chief Bob Miles first began to publicly talk about McCoy’s role in stopping Whitman. By then, McCoy had resigned from the department and was a civilian flight instructor in Del Rio for the U.S. Air Force.
From his bed in Menard Manor in 2011, McCoy recounted what he remembered: “I got him. But it really doesn’t matter whether I got him or Martinez did. Martinez is a good man, and he was the first police officer on the deck to confront the sniper. There were many heroes that day, police officers and civilians.”
Funeral services are pending but will be held sometime in early January, family members said. A portion of McCoy’s ashes will be put into the San Saba River, near where he was born and raised. The rest will be released with a helium balloon while the poem “High Flight” by John Gillespie Magee Jr. — a tribute to flying — will be read.
Wayne Vincent of the Austin Police Association said several current and retired officers will attend.
Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo said in a statement Thursday: “I was privileged to have met and spent time with Houston and his wonderful family the past few years and will miss him dearly. Please take a moment to pray for Houston and his family.”
McCoy’s children — Monika, Kristofer, Stefan and Philip McCoy — remembered a father who raised them in the country without television.
“We have fond childhood memories as a family of reading books, hunting and fishing for our food, canoeing, kayaking, swimming, arrowhead hunting, metal detecting, rattlesnake hunting, exploring, making remote-control airplanes, working on the scout camp, raising animals, having goat barbecues, fish fries and making venison jerky, stuffed sausage and hot tamales,” said Monika McCoy. “Pop taught us gun safety at an early age and how to drive anything with wheels as soon as we could see over the steering wheel.
“The loss of our father is enormous,” she said. “His intellect and love for teaching his children and grandchildren will be greatly missed.”
Monika McCoy has been a driving force in preserving her father’s legacy. She gathered copies of everything written about him, including the police file with Whitman’s autopsy results. She collected hundreds of family photos from the time that Houston McCoy was a child to his high school days in Menard, when he was all-district in football and basketball and was voted “Best All Around Boy.” She arranged reunions with the officers involved in the Tower shooting.
Former Austin police officers who were at the UT Tower shooting remembered McCoy as a man who took his job seriously. He gained their trust.
Jerry Day called McCoy a true Texas hero. “He was an extraordinary man, quiet and a great police officer,” Day said. In the mid-1960s when Day was relatively new on the force, he worked the same shift as McCoy. “If you were on a police call with Houston,” Day said, “you knew he was there for you.”
Friend and former Austin officer Milton Shoquist said that McCoy was a humble man. “All of us who put on a gun and badge every day and go to work, look in the mirror and wonder if we will have what it takes to endure and survive a life or death situation. Houston did not have to ask himself that question after Aug. 1, 1966.
“He has the respect of all whom he worked with. No police officer could ask for anything more,” Shoquist said.
Harold Moe, who also responded to the Tower shooting, called McCoy a great friend: “He was the kind of person that would do anything for a friend, just a really good man.”
McCoy fell on tough times after he left the Austin Police Department. He was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress syndrome and battled alcoholism.
Shoquist said he was aware of McCoy’s troubles: “Like most of us, Houston battled some demons during his life, but I believe, in the end, he won the war.New Email
“It is hard to separate the man from the police officer due to the notoriety surrounding the 1966 tragedy,” Shoquist said. “Houston was a modest, unpretentious man. … His word was his bond and a handshake was as good as a written contract. He was loved by his wife, children, grandchildren and his friends for who he was, not for what happened on the UT Tower that day.”
McCoy was asked in an earlier interview how he wished to be remembered. He answered, “That he’s just a good old boy.”
11-21-12: Death penalty to be sought for suspect in officer’s shooting death
By Tony Plohetski and Jazmine Ulloa
Brandon Montgomery Daniel, who investigators say fatally shot Austin police officer Jaime Padron in a crime that led to an outpouring of community sympathy and support for police, will face possible death in the case.
Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg announced her decision Tuesday to ask jurors to consider whether Daniel should be executed if convicted. She declined to comment further other than to say, “I think it is the right thing to do.”
Daniel, 25, who is charged with capital murder, is expected to go to trial early next year. He remains in the Travis County Jail.
Under Texas law, prosecutors have the option of seeking the death penalty in capital murder cases.
“I am comforted by the fact that a man who committed the ultimate crime, which is the capital offense of killing a police officer, faces the potential of paying the ultimate price,” said Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo.
Bill White, an attorney representing Daniel, said, “Law enforcement believes that (prosecutors) should pursue the death penalty, and I can’t fault them for that. The family of the deceased believes they should pursue the death penalty, and I can’t fault them for that.
“But it’s really the kind of case that you give to the community and let them decide,” White said.
The decision to seek the death penalty — fairly rare in Travis County — comes nearly eight months after authorities said Daniel shot Padron in a North Austin Wal-Mart.
Investigators have said that Padron, a father of two, was responding to a call about a possible shoplifter in the store near Interstate 35 and Parmer Lane. When he arrived, he had a brief encounter with Daniel, who then fatally shot Padron in the neck, authorities said.
Police have said two Wal-Mart employees tackled Daniel, wrestled him to the ground and held him there until other officers arrived.
Later, after Daniel, a software engineer, was taken into custody, he said, “I killed a cop” while being walked through the police parking garage, according to an arrest affidavit.
Padron’s death marked the first time since 2004 that an Austin officer had been killed in the line of duty — and the first to be shot by a suspect in more than a decade. On the day of his funeral, thousands of residents lined Austin streets and Interstate 35, which was temporarily closed, for a lengthy funeral procession.
The American-Statesman reported shortly after the shooting that Daniel had been arrested at least four times since 2007 in Texas and his native Colorado. Records showed he once skirted going to jail on a drunken driving charge by slipping information to police in Colorado about a reputed dorm-room drug dealer from whom he said he was purchasing Ecstasy, a street drug that often causes euphoria.
His mother, Mary O’Dell, has told the newspaper that her son had no memory of the night of the April 6 shooting, and his roommate has said Daniel was taking Xanax.
The decision to seek the death penalty came after Lehmberg consulted with an internal panel that includes some of her top assistant prosecutors. Those prosecutors review evidence in capital murder cases after an indictment is issued and recommend whether the defendant should be punished with the death penalty if convicted.