Authorities on Monday continued to try to piece together the sequence of events that led to a fatal police shooting, including how and why a plain-clothes detective enlisted a ride from a citizen to help track the suspect and whether that detective followed departmental policies in chasing the man.
Before and during a pursuit of Larry Eugene Jackson Jr., 32, on Friday outside the Benchmark Bank near 35th Street and Shoal Creek, veteran Detective Charles Kleinert also did not appear to have summoned backup, a potential violation of departmental policies, several sources familiar with the investigation said.
According to policies concerning pursuits on foot, officers are required to broadcast the reason for the chase, a description of the suspect and whether they think the suspect is armed.
The actions of Kleinert, including why a single shot was fired in the back of Jackson’s neck during a struggle, remained the focus of a closely guarded internal police investigation Monday. The sources said Kleinert was using his gun to try to subdue Jackson, who was not armed, before the shooting.
Officials are investigating whether Kleinert’s weapon discharged intentionally or accidentally, Assistant Chief Brian Manley told reporters Monday. He is acting as chief while Police Chief Art Acevedo is in California with his mother, who is in hospice.
Kleinert, a respected officer among his peers, could not be reached for comment. He had not provided a formal statement to investigators as of midday Monday.
In addition to some new information released by authorities Monday, the American-Statesman’s description of other details in the case came from four independent sources who are familiar with the preliminary findings of the investigation. They asked not to be identified because the case is ongoing and they are not authorized to speak.
Whether and why lethal force was necessary is under investigation, Manley said, but the shooting has prompted an outpouring of concerns from some in the community.
“I have serious questions,” Council Member Sheryl Cole said Monday. “I am looking forward to the information provided by the investigation.”
Jim Harrington, director of the Texas Civil Rights Project, said in a statement that Austin police are too often and too aggressively using deadly force. The shooting was the sixth police shooting this year and the third fatal one.
“That is unacceptable in Austin,” he said.
Officials have said that Kleinert was at the bank investigating a robbery that morning. Jackson, who has a previous forgery charge in Williamson County, was not a suspect in the robbery, police have said, but showed up around 4 p.m. and tried to open the front door of the closed bank.
The doors were locked, and Jackson walked away, but he returned a minute later and tried to open the door again, drawing the attention of bank staff inside.
After speaking to Jackson, a bank manager told Kleinert that Jackson had attempted to use the name of a bank customer who employees knew was not Jackson, according to the sources, who declined to be identified because they are not authorized to speak. The sources said Jackson was later found with at least one form of identification that did not belong to him.
Manley said that police have information that Jackson was at the bank to try to commit a fraud but provided no further details, saying officials still need statements from witnesses. He said that no weapon was found on Jackson. Police have also not identified a man they’ve described as a possible witness to the shooting, Manley said.
After Kleinert was alerted, he went to speak with Jackson for a few minutes, but Jackson began running, officials said.
The sources said they did not know how far Kleinert asked the citizen to drive him or who the citizen was. Kleinert caught up with the man under a bridge near 34th Street and Shoal Creek, but it was not clear how a struggle between the two began.
According to the department’s foot pursuit policy, officers must consider their safety and that of the public before engaging in a chase. The policy also states that if an officer is unable to broadcast required information, he should terminate the pursuit.
“It is recognized that foot pursuits potentially place department personnel and the public at significant risk,” the policy states. “Therefore, no officer or supervisor shall be criticized or disciplined for deciding not to engage in a foot pursuit because of the perceived risk involved.”
Departmental policy does not address the use of private citizens to assist during a pursuit.
David Klinger, a former police officer and criminal justice professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis who studies policing and the use of deadly force, said it’s unusual to involve a citizen but that several factors influence whether such action can be considered good or bad police work, including how risky the situation is and how involved the citizen is.
Klinger said he could not issue an opinion about Kleinert not awaiting backup and said several issues were important in assessing the situation, including the seriousness of the crime the detective thought Jackson was involved in, if he was wearing a radio and if he had a legal basis for detaining or arresting Jackson before giving chase.
On Monday, some Austin residents and civil rights leaders continued their demands for more information, while police union president Sgt. Wayne Vincent said Kleinert had a respected reputation in the department.
The city’s civil service office has no record of any disciplinary memos about Kleinert, a city official said. Public portions of the detective’s civil service file were not available Monday.
“Charles was doing what cops do,” Vincent said. “He had an individual he felt was necessary to take into custody. Something went wrong, a tragedy ensued.”