Officer in Breaion King arrest facing discipline over new force case


An Austin police officer whose violent 2015 arrest of an elementary teacher received national attention and sparked reforms within the department is facing punishment that could include termination amid a new allegation involving excessive force.

Officials are expected early this week to complete the disciplinary process for Officer Bryan Richter and a second officer involved in the incident, sources told the American-Statesman and KVUE-TV on Sunday.

Interim Police Chief Brian Manley and other department brass conducted an hours-long disciplinary hearing for the officers Friday that also included their attorneys and union representatives.

Four sources said the incident happened nearly six months ago when Richter and members of a specialized team in the department’s organized crime division tasked with serving felony warrants were trying to arrest a suspect, who has a criminal history that includes violent offenses. The officers used tactics that supervisors deemed inappropriate, which triggered an internal affairs investigation, said the sources, who declined to be identified because the matter is pending.

The incident was captured on video by an Austin police helicopter, which investigators used as evidence in the case. It was not clear what, if anything, may have precipitated any use of force against the man, who is Hispanic.

THE TALK: A tough conversation about race and policing in Austin

Additional details of what happened will not be made public until Manley decides on the punishment and files documents about the case with the city’s civil service commission. If the officers are suspended or terminated, evidence in the case, including the video, may be released in coming days.

Police officials also alerted prosecutors in the civil rights division of the Travis County District Attorney’s office about the case, which they have been investigating.

Erica Grigg, an attorney who represents Breaion King, who was thrown to the ground in 2015 when Richter arrested her, said she is not surprised that Richter’s tactics are again under scrutiny.

“Ms. King believes, and I think a lot of us believe, that if you do badly at your job, then there should be repercussions,” Grigg said.

King has an ongoing civil lawsuit against the city.

Manley said Sunday he is prevented by state law from commenting on a pending matter. Doug O’Connell, an attorney who represents Richter, and Ken Casaday, president of the Austin Police Association, also declined to comment.

QUESTION OF RESTRAINT: How did nearly 300 people die in police custody in Texas?

Richter was widely condemned for his 2015 arrest of King, whom he stopped for speeding along Riverside Drive.

The arrest had received little scrutiny until a year later, when the American-Statesman and KVUE-TV obtained video from Richter’s patrol car that showed the encounter quickly and dramatically escalating.

Richter, who is white, first commanded King, who is black, to close her car door but then forcibly removed her from the driver’s seat, pulled her across a vacant parking space and hurled her to the asphalt.

Richter said in a written report at the time that he didn’t know if King had a weapon and that she resisted by wrapping her arms around the steering wheel of the car.

Minutes later, as King was being taken to jail, officer Patrick Spradlin and King discussed race relations and interactions between police and African-Americans, and Spradlin made comments about the “violent tendencies” of blacks.

Richter’s supervisors reviewed the incident at the time and gave him a reprimand — the lowest form of departmental discipline. Spradlin’s comments went unnoticed until the Statesman’s report.

A Travis County grand jury later reviewed the case and did not indict Richter.

ALSO READ: New Austin police policy emphasizes alternatives to using force

Internally, the arrest prompted the police department to alter how use-of-force cases are handled because department leaders were livid they had never been briefed on the case.

Under a “peer review” practice, an officer’s assigned supervisory chain must continue evaluating the lowest level of force encounters, such as the use of hand-to-hand combat and pepper spray. But a separate commander also must sign off on what happened.

The department also has set deadlines for the reviews, saying they must be finalized within 60 days to ensure department officials can impose possible discipline before a state-mandated 180-day deadline.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

Driver hits, critically injures pedestrian at Stassney, Congress
Driver hits, critically injures pedestrian at Stassney, Congress

A driver hit and critically injured a pedestrian in South Austin on Thursday night, Austin-Travis County EMS officials said. Medics responded at 10:02 p.m. to Stassney Lane and South Congress Avenue, EMS officials said.  The pedestrian, estimated to be in his 40s, was taken to St. David South Austin Medical Center with life-threatening injuries...
H-E-B recalling olives that may contain glass, store says
H-E-B recalling olives that may contain glass, store says

H-E-B is recalling certain store-brand olives that may contain glass inside, the store said Thursday evening.  The recalled product, 10-ounce glass jars of H-E-B’s “Ode to Olives Sliced Salad Olives,” has a best by date of Nov. 3, 2019, the store said in a news release.  The store issued the recall after customers who had...
Reports: Victim’s family sues parents of accused Santa Fe school shooter
Reports: Victim’s family sues parents of accused Santa Fe school shooter

The family of one of the victims in last week’s Santa Fe High School shooting is suing the parents of the accused shooter, according to two Houston-area TV news stations.  The parents of 17-year-old Chris Stone have filed suit against the parents of accused shooter, Dimitrios Pagourtzis, KTRK-TV reported. They argue in the suit...
Intense, tearful meeting with shooting survivors ends Abbott gun talks
Intense, tearful meeting with shooting survivors ends Abbott gun talks

Gov. Greg Abbott ended three days of gun violence discussions Thursday with an intense, sometimes tearful session devoted to survivors and victims of mass shootings in Texas. Many in the state Capitol room attended Santa Fe High School or had children who were there when a gunman killed eight students and two teachers last week, and while there was...
Democratic governor candidate Valdez owes $12,000 in property taxes
Democratic governor candidate Valdez owes $12,000 in property taxes

Lupe Valdez, who on Tuesday won the Democratic nomination for governor, owes more than $12,000 in property taxes on seven different properties, the Houston Chronicle reported Thursday. Valdez’s campaign spokesman Juan Bautista Dominguez said that the former Dallas County sheriff does owe the money and said she is paying it back. “Sheriff...
More Stories