A lawsuit recently filed against the city of Austin has brought to light the death of a man that had previously been unreported and that resulted from Austin police action.
The family of James Fred Sizer, 62, on Friday filed a wrongful death suit in federal court seeking an unspecified amount of damages for Sizer’s death. Sizer died several days after an Austin police officer shocked him with a stun gun, documents said.
Sizer’s autopsy confirmed he died from complications of a blunt force injury that happened when his head hit the pavement after the stun gun was used on him. The incident happened March 6 at his North Austin house. Sizer died March 14.
Austin police are conducting an internal investigation into Sizer’s death, which is being investigated as an in-custody death. The case will also be presented to a Travis County grand jury, as is customary with in-custody deaths, police said.
Sizer’s death brings the total number of in-custody deaths in Austin this year to eight, according to the Texas attorney general’s office. Six of those deaths resulted from Austin police shooting people.
On the day of the incident, Austin police officer Martha Cameron and Cpl. Salvatore Reale responded to a call from Sizer’s home on Bittern Hollow. Sizer had requested that police come to his home, saying he believed his son was armed with a gun and intended to enter his home without his permission, court documents said.
The suit says Sizer informed the 911 call taker that he had a gun and acknowledged that he fired three shots into the ground of his backyard. However, it claims Sizer told the dispatcher he wouldn’t be armed and would be waiting outside of his home for the police.
When Cameron and Reale arrived, they both drew their weapons and ordered Sizer to get on the ground. Sizer refused, telling them that he couldn’t because of a disability, the suit says. The affidavit made no mention of Sizer indicating he had a disability and says Cameron believed he could be armed, despite not seeing a weapon in his hands.
After Sizer refused to obey several commands to get on the ground, including a warning that he would be shocked with a stun gun, Cameron stunned him. It hit Sizer in the back and caused him to fall to the ground, the affidavit said.
The incident led police to charge Sizer with a misdemeanor related to him firing a gun within the city’s limits. He was treated at a hospital before being released to police custody.
The family’s lawyer, Bobby R. Taylor, said he didn’t want to comment on the case because it could anger federal judges. The city provided no comment, as is its policy with pending litigation.