Austin officer who pepper-sprayed handcuffed man could face charges

Travis County prosecutors said Wednesday that they will present a police use-of-force case filmed by a citizen photographer during South by Southwest to a grand jury for possible indictment against the officer.

The panel will decide whether officer Cameron Caldwell should be charged in the matter. In a video widely circulated online, Caldwell is seen shooting pepper spray in the face of a handcuffed man after the man refused to stop kicking a police transport van.

Police Chief Art Acevedo in August suspended Caldwell for 45 days over the incident. But police officials also referred the case to prosecutors for their review.

First Assistant District Attorney John Neal said Wednesday that the decision to present the case was “made after our normal review process for use-of-force cases.”

Caldwell’s attorney, Brad Heilman, said his client looks forward to telling his side of the story to the grand jury.

The man had been arrested and placed inside the van. He kicked the door of the van multiple times and continued to do so after Caldwell ordered him several times to stop, a disciplinary memo said. After the man disobeyed him again, Caldwell opened the door, sprayed him in the face with pepper spray and shut the door. The man was handcuffed and seated at the time.

Caldwell admitted to wrongdoing during a disciplinary hearing. Caldwell has no previous history of improper behavior, which Acevedo said contributed to his decision not to fire Caldwell.

It is unusual for prosecutors to present to a grand jury use-of-force cases that don’t involve lethal force. They’ve done so in Travis County four times since January 2012. None of the cases resulted in criminal charges.

The most recent was the violent arrest of teacher Breaion King in June 2015 by officer Bryan Richter, an incident the American-Statesman revealed in July. Earlier this month, a grand jury declined to indict Richter on any charge.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Local

Austin Muslim community, leaders break fast at citywide iftar
Austin Muslim community, leaders break fast at citywide iftar

Community leaders and members of Austin’s Muslim community gathered Saturday evening to “break the fast” at the third annual Austin City Wide Iftar. The event, hosted by the Austin Muslim Civic Ambassadors at the Asian American Resource Center, aims to “bridge the gap between local elected officials and Austin’s Muslim...
PolitiFact: Shooting deaths in schools outpacing combat zones
PolitiFact: Shooting deaths in schools outpacing combat zones

After a gunman killed 10 people at Santa Fe High School, a claim circulated widely on social media that compared the number of deaths in the military with the number of deaths in school shootings. One of the politicians who shared it on social media was Gwen Graham, a former Democratic member of the U.S. House who is now running for governor of Florida...
Community news: Sendero Health offers Hepatitis C outreach program

TRAVIS COUNTY TRAVIS COUNTY Hepatitis C outreach program set Sendero Health Plans, a community-based nonprofit Central Texas health plan, recently announced a new patient outreach, education and treatment program to help Sendero members detect, treat and eliminate the hepatitis C virus. Sendero Health has begun an initiative to identify members who...
50 Texas foster children slept in state offices, hotels in April
50 Texas foster children slept in state offices, hotels in April

Texas children sleeping in state offices and other temporary living situations continue to plague the state’s child welfare agency as the number of specialized foster care homes diminishes. The number of children who were forced to sleep in Child Protective Services offices, hotels and shelters for at least two consecutive nights as they awaited...
Where to honor those who gave their all on Memorial Day
Where to honor those who gave their all on Memorial Day

No matter where you are in Central Texas, there will be a place nearby to remember those who died while serving the country’s armed forces. The following are among the places to go on Memorial Day: TRAVIS COUNTY East Austin: Ceremony, 10 a.m. Monday in the southwest section of the Texas State Cemetery, 909 Navasota Street. East Austin: Ceremony...
More Stories