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

Austin police officer who killed Morgan Rankins won’t face criminal charges, DA says
Austin police officer who killed Morgan Rankins won’t face criminal charges, DA says

An Austin police officer who shot and killed 30-year-old Morgan London Rankins in 2017 will not face criminal charges, according to Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore. The officer, Benjamin Rogers, shot Rankins on Feb. 22 after, according to police, she charged him with a knife. The events that led to the shooting began when police received...
TODAY: Austin police discussing school safety as students head back to class
TODAY: Austin police discussing school safety as students head back to class

Austin police on Thursday will discuss school safety as students head back to class this week. The Police Department has scheduled a news conference at 1 p.m. to offer tips to students and parents. Austin school district students return to campuses on Monday, but other districts throughout the region opened their doors this week. School safety has...
Floodgates at Tom Miller Dam will be replaced starting next week, LCRA says
Floodgates at Tom Miller Dam will be replaced starting next week, LCRA says

The Lower Colorado River Authority is investing nearly $10 million to replace the time-worn floodgates at Tom Miller Dam. The project is set to begin next week, and isn’t expected to cause any problems for boaters on Lake Austin. The dam has nine floodgates that are used to send floodwaters downstream to help control the water supply in the Austin...
Community news: Housing voucher wait list reopens

TRAVIS COUNTY AUSTIN Housing voucher list reopens The Housing Authority of the city of Austin will accept online pre-applications for the Housing Choice Voucher program, formerly known as Section 8, from Sept. 17 through 24, for the first time in four years. Applicants may apply for free at hacaapply.org, and applications typically take five to 10...
Man charged with stalking girlfriend for months before choking her, police say 
Man charged with stalking girlfriend for months before choking her, police say 

A man suspected of sending threatening messages to his girlfriend for two months before choking her was arrested on Thursday, court documents say. James Tate, 39, has been charged with stalking and felony assault strangulation, court documents show. Police said Tate began sending text messages and leaving voicemails threatening to kill his girlfriend...
More Stories