The family of a man who died after being shot by police near Sixth Street on Sunday morning is disputing key details of the Austin Police Department’s account.
Authorities said Sunday that a 24-year-old man suspected of firing a gun into the air ran away, then turned and fired toward pursuing officers. Interim Police Chief Brian Manley said the man was fatally wounded as officers returned fire.
But Royie Nobles, 26, told the American-Statesman that his 24-year-old cousin Landon Nobles did not point his gun at police.
Royie Nobles said they were downtown with a group to celebrate another cousin’s birthday. He said Landon Nobles was running from the scene of an argument and was shot in the back by police after an officer threw a bicycle at him, causing a gun he was carrying to go off.
“I was there,” Royie Nobles said. “I saw the whole thing.”
A video of the argument that led up to the shooting was posted to YouTube later in the day. It shows several men, including Landon Nobles, arguing about 2:30 a.m. near the Jackalope bar and the Mooseknuckle Pub in the 400 block of East Sixth Street. At points, Nobles can be seen grabbing what appears to be a gun tucked into his waistband.
A security guard and several bystanders are shown trying to de-escalate the situation, but no police officers intervene.
The video shows several men arguing and threatening one another. At one point, two of the men involved square up with fists raised, but another man breaks it up. One of the men shouts, “East Side.”
While no police intervened, a man wearing what appears to be a police uniform, protective vest and gun belt is shown passing by roughly 30 seconds before one of the men fires a gun.
As he walks by, the uniformed man turns his head and looks while the men continue to shout and threaten one another, but he keeps walking west on Sixth Street.
A woman can be heard saying, “Where the police? He just walked past.”
Twenty seconds later, someone fires a shot.
Manley said officers got involved at 2:39 a.m. when police working in the area heard the gunshot. Officers monitoring cameras downtown found footage of a man shooting into the air near Sixth and Trinity. They quickly radioed a description so officers could find the shooter.
Moments later, officers approached the suspect, who then ran, the chief said. According to Manley, officers fired on the suspect after he fired toward them in the 600 block of Trinity Street.
“At one point, based upon the preliminary investigation and on the reports that we’ve been given, the suspect did turn and fire towards our officers,” Manley said. “Our officers returned fire, and the suspect was ultimately shot at that point.”
Royie Nobles said he didn’t know why his cousin ran but confirmed that Landon Nobles had a gun when he darted away from crowd.
Royie Nobles said he did not see his cousin fire the shot that alerted Austin police.
Nobles said he saw an officer throw a bicycle into the path of his cousin, who tripped and fell, causing his gun to go off.
“As he was getting up, it went off again, and the police got out their guns and started shooting as he got up,” Nobles said. “He didn’t turn around. They shot him in his back.”
Royie Nobles said he grew up with Landon Nobles and several other cousins. “We were like brothers and sisters,” he said of the group. “We’re hurt. We just lost somebody who kept everybody smiling, who kept everybody laughing.”
Linda Nobles, Landon’s grandmother, spoke slowly and softly over the phone as she described the enormity of the loss her family is feeling.
“He was a part of the family that was just lively and lovable,” she said. “We miss him a lot.”
Now, family members say they want to see more footage of the shooting.
“I just wish that they would really show the real video,” Royie Nobles said. “They’re saying that he turned around and shot at them. Had he done that, he probably would have hit someone in the crowd. When he fell, that’s what happened. It went off. Everybody saw it.”
Austin police declined to say more about the incident Monday, citing the ongoing investigation.