The Austin Police Department has notified the detective who fatally shot Larry Eugene Jackson Jr. on Friday of an administrative investigation into the shooting, setting the clock on how much time must elapse before he is compelled to give a formal statement about the incident.
Detective Charles Kleinert was given notice Tuesday afternoon, and he is expected to give a statement to internal affairs about the shooting this week, a police spokeswoman said.
Kleinert, a veteran detective, has not yet given a formal statement about the incident to the department’s special investigations unit, which conducts a parallel criminal investigation into such officer-involved shootings, the spokeswoman said. Kleinert did provide the supervisor on the scene after the shooting a basic description of what happened, the spokeswoman said.
Officials have said that Kleinert was at the Benchmark Bank on West 35th Street near Shoal Creek investigating a morning robbery Friday when Jackson, who police have said was not a suspect in the robbery, showed up around 4 p.m. and tried to open the front door of the closed bank.
The doors were locked, and Jackson walked away, but he returned a minute later and tried to open the door again, drawing the attention of the bank staff inside, officials said.
After speaking to Jackson, a bank manager told Kleinert that Jackson had attempted to use the name of a bank customer whom employees knew he was not, according to the sources, who declined to be identified because they are not authorized to speak. The sources said Jackson, who had a previous forgery charge in Williamson County, was later found with at least one form of identification that did not belong to him.
Assistant Chief Brian Manley, who is acting as police chief while Art Acevedo is in California with his mother, who is in hospice, said Monday that police have information that Jackson was at the bank to try to commit a fraud.
After Kleinert was alerted, he went to speak with Jackson for a few minutes, but Jackson began running, officials said. Kleinert pursued him, at one point involving a citizen who was driving by in helping to catch up with Jackson, Manley said.
When Kleinert reached Jackson under a bridge at Shoal Creek near West 34th Street, Jackson was shot as the two struggled, according to Manley. Whether Kleinert’s weapon fired intentionally or accidentally is under investigation, he said. No weapon was found on Jackson.
Activists gathered in front of City Hall on Tuesday to criticize the city’s response to the shooting, saying officials have rushed to justify the actions of Kleinert.
“You can’t shoot people in the back of the head and call it justified if he’s unarmed,” said Debbie Russell of the Austin Police Accountability Coalition.
Manley acknowledged Monday that emotions were running high in the community as a result of the incident but asked the public to allow the case to go through the investigative process.
According to both state law and the terms of the city’s contract with the police union, an officer who is the subject of an administrative investigation must be given a copy of the complaints against him — or, in this case, notice of the inquiry — at least 48 hours before the officer is expected to provide a statement to an investigator.
In the criminal investigation into the shooting, which the department is conducting with the Travis County district attorney’s office, an officer has the same rights as any other citizen, including the right to retain a lawyer. The officer can decline to give a statement.
An officer can also decline to give a statement in an administrative investigation, but the refusal is considered insubordination, said Police Monitor Margo Frasier.
She said she didn’t know of any shooting investigations in which an officer declined to give a statement in either investigation. Typically, she said, an officer first gives a statement in the criminal investigation within three business days of the incident and a statement in the administrative investigation follows.
The city’s civil service office has no record of any disciplinary memos about Kleinert, meaning that in his 19 years with the department, no complaints against him were sustained.
His annual performance evaluations, which the American-Statesman obtained through a public information request, were generally glowing, describing him as a “go-to guy” for high-profile cases and someone who sacrificed his personal time for the department. In the past several years, his supervisor urged him to take the test required for a promotion, saying Kleinert would make an excellent supervisor.
As is customary in such situations, he was placed on paid administrative leave after the shooting.