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Authorities to investigate East Austin traffic stop shooting

By Julie Chang and Claudia Grisales - American-Statesman Staff

Austin police Chief Art Acevedo said there will be a thorough investigation after an Austin police officer fired at an unarmed man who approached him during a traffic stop in East Austin on Wednesday morning.

At 7:51 a.m., the officer stopped the driver of a pickup going east on East 12th Street after seeing the truck run a red light, Acevedo said. The driver — a 54-year-old man who police did not name Wednesday — pulled over just west of Airport Boulevard. Acevedo said the officer reported that the man ignored orders to get back into his vehicle and made several furtive movements, as if reaching for something, such as a weapon.

“The officer immediately got out of his patrol vehicle and ordered this individual several times to get back in the vehicle,” Acevedo said. “At some point the officer fired one round. It did not strike the individual.

“Subsequent to that shot being fired, the individual … suffers what I would characterize as an anxiety attack,” Acevedo said. The man was taken to University Medical Center Brackenridge, the chief said, and “is in fine condition.”

It was later determined that the man was not armed, Acevedo said. No one was hurt in the shooting, he said.

Austin police and the district attorney’s office each conduct their own investigations into such incidents. Also, as is customary in such cases, the officer will be placed on administrative leave. His name was not released Wednesday, but Acevedo said the officer has been with the department for four years.

There is clear police dashboard camera video and audio recordings of the incident, Acevedo said.

“We will wait for the investigation to take its course,” Acevedo said, before determining whether disciplinary action should be taken in the case.

Acevedo said Wednesday’s incident highlights why drivers should practice safe behavior during traffic stops.

“When you get stopped by a police officer, do not get out of the car and start walking toward the officer,” he said. “The officer has no idea who you are. All they know is a guy … decides to accelerate through a red light with a police car right behind them. It’s just not smart to do.”

This is not the first police shooting in 2013.

On April 24, 54-year-old Herbert Babelay was killed in a confrontation with police at his East Austin home in the 700 block of Valdez Street. Police said Babelay, who friends described as distraught after a break-up, pointed a rifle at officers responding to reports of a suicidal man.

An officer fatally shot 70-year-old John Schaefer on March 1 in a confrontation outside Schaefer’s Northwest Austin home. And in January, Austin police officer Roosevelt Granderson and robbery suspect Mark Fruge, 51, were both injured in a shootout.

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