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Austin police officer suspended for unjustified use of stun gun

Austin police on Wednesday suspended an officer who admitted to using a stun gun on a person without just cause in August.

Officer Christopher Van Buren accepted a 90-day suspension without pay from the police department and agreed to waive any right to appeal the punishment, which includes a mandatory psychological evaluation, according to a disciplinary memo from Austin police Chief Art Acevedo.

The suspension stems from an Aug. 27 incident in which Van Buren and another officer responded to a report of public urination in East Austin on Gonzalez Street near Seventh Street and Pleasant Valley Road. There, Van Buren spotted a man resting under a tree who the officer believed to be the suspect, the memo says.

Van Buren ordered the man to stand up and warned that if he did not comply, Van Buren would shock him with a stun gun, the memo says. In a video of the incident reviewed by internal affairs, the man could be heard expressing bewilderment as to why Van Buren would shoot him with the stun gun.

Van Buren told internal affairs he was concerned that the man could have a weapon. However, internal affairs ruled that his fear was unwarranted and unsupported by the video evidence.

Van Buren also did not give the man a reasonable amount of time to comply with his order, the memo said.

After reviewing the tape in a disciplinary review hearing with his entire chain of command, Van Buren agreed that his use of force had not been justified and expressed regret for the incident.

Van Buren has been with Austin police for two years. He is assigned to the evening patrol shift in East Austin, police said.

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