A man believed to have been involved in a possible kidnapping Monday night is dead after officials say he hijacked a taxicab, led officers on a chase through Southeast Austin and confronted police in a standoff that turned into a shooting.
The man, who police have not yet identified, died at the Chateau at Onion Creek subdivision Monday evening after he pointed a gun at officers at least twice and police fired two volleys of shots at him, Austin interim Police Chief Brian Manley said. Police are still investigating whether the man died from officers’ gunfire, officials said.
The seven officers who fired shots during the incident have been placed on paid administrative leave, which is the normal Austin Police Department policy. No one else was injured, Manley said.
Officers were dispatched about 5:30 p.m. to a report of a disturbance between roommates in the 4800 block of Nuckols Crossing Road and of a possible kidnapping that had occurred earlier in the 3300 block of Parker Lane, Manley said.
The victims had called 911 and told the dispatcher that the kidnapping suspect was at the Nuckols Crossing Road address in a taxicab and possibly armed. Manley said officers arrived and tried to pull the taxi over, but the suspect stole the taxicab and fled after the cab driver got out of the car.
A police chase ensued and ended at the Chateau at Onion Creek, a subdivision of manufactured homes in the 4900 block of Edge Creek Drive.
Officers noticed that the suspect had a gun in his hand and at one point aimed it to his head, refusing officers’ commands to drop his weapon, Manley said. Minutes later, the man tried to ram the gates to get out of the subdivision but was unable to, the chief said.
Police then called a SWAT team and negotiators to try to resolve the situation, officials said.
Shortly after 6:30 p.m., officers reported that the suspect had pointed his gun at them. They were able to retreat to safety, but three minutes later, the suspect pointed the gun at them again and the officers responded by firing their weapons, Manley said.
The suspect was still moving inside the vehicle and negotiators continued to try to get him to drop his weapon, but at 6:48 p.m., officers fired again, and “the suspect stopped responding to the officers’ commands,” Manley said.
The suspect was pronounced dead at the scene.
“I have had the opportunity to view one video from a body-worn camera, and I am expecting that there will be other videos that captured this incident as well,” Manley told reporters Monday night. “What I can tell you is that it is evident on the video, you can hear from before any shots are fired, you can hear our negotiator talking to the suspect in this incident. You can hear him giving those repeated commands to put the weapon down, to drop the weapon.”
Six families were evacuated during the incident, two of which were not allowed to return to their homes until Tuesday morning because bullets had penetrated their houses, said Melissa Rutledge, property manager at the Chateau at Onion Creek.
Police were still interviewing the residents as they returned to the subdivision in the morning.
“We aren’t used to things like this happening,” said Sarah Baulsch, who has lived in the neighborhood for more than a decade.
Baulsch said she was watching the evening news when she heard the gunfire, which came in spurts amid the churn of a helicopter, followed by a final, resounding “boom.”
“The last shot was loud,” she said. “If he had gotten out of that gate, there is no telling how many cars he could have run into and how many he might have shot.”
As the incident was unfolding Monday, about eight teachers at Perez Elementary School, which is across the street from the neighborhood where the shooting occurred, were asked to shelter in place before police finally escorted them out.
Juana Aguilera, whose family was evacuated from their home at the Chateau at Onion Creek, was on the school’s campus at the time for a parent-teacher conference. She said her 12-year-old son, Carlos Rubio, was walking to the park with a friend when he was almost hit by the suspect as he sped down South Pleasant Valley Road in the taxicab into the neighborhood.
“My legs started to shiver,” Rubio said Tuesday. “I guess I was afraid like what would happen, like if he turned around and pointed the gun out the window and he shot both me and my friend.”
Aguilera said she was terrified as her husband and three other children were evacuated from their home amid the chaos.
Austin police have not yet identified the seven officers who fired at the suspect Monday but said two of them had been with the Police Department for 17 years, two for six years, one for five years and two for four years. Two of the officers are with the patrol unit, two are with SWAT and three are with the narcotics division, Austin police officials said.
The department will conduct an internal investigation to determine whether officers followed policies correctly, as well as a criminal investigation to determine whether they broke any laws, which is the department’s policy after police shootings.