The fatal police shooting of Larry Eugene Jackson Jr. in July quickly drew the ire of critics who questioned whether his death was unnecessary. On Thursday, Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo announced that his department has answers.
However, the results of the administrative and criminal investigations that Acevedo said would be fast-tracked weren’t released pending a grand jury decision that is expected next month.
The results of the criminal investigation were delivered to the Travis County district attorney’s office Tuesday, Acevedo said in a statement, and a grand jury will next consider whether to indict Detective Charles Kleinert, who fatally shot Jackson on July 26.
The city’s citizen review panel also must review the administrative investigation before the chief takes any disciplinary action in the case.
The department plans to finish its administrative disciplinary process in the first week of November, Acevedo said. In such shootings, the department doesn’t close the administrative case until the criminal case is resolved.
“We continue to urge the community to allow these processes to take their course and stand committed to sharing our findings at the conclusion of the administrative and grand jury processes,” Acevedo said.
Jim Harrington, director of the Texas Civil Rights Project and a frequent police critic, said the investigation process has moved more quickly than in most officer-involved shootings, but Harrington said he wasn’t optimistic that Kleinert will be indicted as he said he would like to see happen.
Nelson Linder, president of the Austin chapter of the NAACP, said he has “no faith” that the district attorney’s office will present the case in a way that doesn’t sway jurors to sympathize with the officer.
“I think it’s flawed, … and I think that’s unfortunate,” he said of the criminal investigation process.
Meanwhile, Sgt. Wayne Vincent, president of the Austin Police Association, said he hoped the department didn’t harm the quality of the investigations by hurrying them. Vincent said he was also concerned that confidential information from the administrative investigation that was disclosed to the American-Statesman could prematurely influence jurors.
Officials have said that Kleinert was investigating a morning robbery at the Benchmark Bank on West 35th Street near Shoal Creek when Jackson tried to open the bank’s locked doors that afternoon. Jackson, who had a previous forgery conviction in Williamson County from 2003, but wasn’t a suspect in the bank robbery, walked away and then returned a minute later and tried to open the door again, police have said.
A bank manager went outside to speak to Jackson, and, when she returned, told Kleinert that he had attempted to use the name of a bank customer who employees knew wasn’t him, police said.
Police have said that Jackson fled after talking to Kleinert for a few minutes and that the detective got a ride from a passer-by in his effort to find Jackson. Kleinert and Jackson then got into a struggle under a nearby bridge, where Jackson was shot.
Several sources have told the American-Statesman that, during an interview with internal affairs investigators, Kleinert said he had drawn his weapon to try to subdue Jackson and lost his balance and fell during a struggle. A single round accidentally went off, and Jackson was shot in the back of the neck, according to the sources, who had been informed of what Kleinert said to investigators but asked to remain anonymous because they weren’t authorized to speak.
This story was updated to correct who Texas Civil Rights Project director Jim Harrington would like to see indicted.
Read previous coverage with this story at mystatesman.com.