Austin officer who pepper-sprayed handcuffed man won’t face charges


Highlights

Officer, colleague and two supervisors were suspended for their conduct involving the March 2016 incident.

A member of the group Peaceful Streets captured the incident on video.

A Travis County grand jury declined to indict an Austin officer who was caught on video using pepper spray on a handcuffed man who had been loaded into a police van.

Jurors had considered a possible indictment against officer Cameron Caldwell on an assault charge.

The incident has already led to internal Austin police disciplinary action against three other officers, including two supervisors, who top police officials said conducted a shoddy review of the case, fueling questions about how well the department scrutinizes use-of-force cases.

Prosecutors said their review of the incident is concluded and that they don’t expect additional charges.

The case stems from the arrest of a man visiting from Chicago during South by Southwest in March.

Officers had detained the man and placed him inside a police transport van. He kicked the back 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 the man in the face with pepper spray and shut the door. The man was handcuffed and seated at the time.

A member of the group Peaceful Streets captured the incident on video, which was widely circulated online. Yet weeks passed before officials said the case received proper review from Caldwell’s supervisors.

Investigators found that Lt. Allen Hicks directed Sgt. Scott Stanfield to refrain from completing a review of the March 17 incident. The investigation also uncovered that Stanfield failed to properly supervise officers and review other use-of-force incidents and that Hicks improperly reclassified use-of-force cases to decrease the amount of review they were to receive.

Hicks has been demoted two ranks to corporal/detective and will serve a 45-day suspension. Stanfield has been demoted a rank — also to corporal/detective — and will serve a 30-day suspension.

Officer Vanessa Jimenez also received a 20-day suspension for what happened that night. Ultimately, Caldwell was suspended for 45 days.

In the minutes before the man was taken to the van, Jimenez used her Taser on him after he became involved in a struggle with other officers. A disciplinary memo said she admitted that using the weapon wasn’t reasonable.



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