The father of a 20-year-old woman who was fatally shot by police in Southeast Austin last week said officers should have been able to disarm his daughter without killing her.
An officer shot Leslie Yolanda Salazar at 2:39 a.m. Thursday as she approached him with a knife in her hand, interim Austin police Chief Brian Manley said.
Salazar’s father, Daniel McGarvey II, said she wasn’t a threat to anyone.
“She weighed 95 pounds at the most,” he told the American-Statesman in a message exchange. “The officers could have easily disarmed her. At the most, (used a Taser) or pepper sprayed her. She is beautiful inside and out. She didn’t deserve to be murdered.”
McGarvey said his mother called him at his home in North Texas to tell him about his daughter’s death. He combed through media reports to find out what happened.
Authorities said a woman called 911 about 15 minutes before the shooting to report someone trying to break into her house in the 7300 block of South Glenn Street. As she was on the line with police, she said the person made it inside and ended the call. She called back a few minutes later and said she was hiding from her cousin, who had chased her and others in the home with a knife.
Officers arrived and emptied the house of other occupants before confronting Salazar. Manley said body-worn camera footage showed Salazar was shot as she approached officers with a knife in the kitchen. Officers told her to drop the knife and began to back away, but as she approached them, one officer fired.
McGarvey said he still doesn’t know what led up to the incident. “All I can say is that it’s unfortunate how a really bad day and circumstances can end a beautiful life.”
Austin police identified the officer who fired as Thomas Brown, a three-year veteran of the department assigned to Central East and South Central Patrol.
“I do have empathy for the officer involved and understand it must be difficult for him murdering a beautiful soul. I hope one day he can find peace,” McGarvey said.
Salazar’s death marked the sixth officer-involved shooting by Austin police in 2018, five of which were deadly. Salazar was the only person shot while holding a knife, according to police.
On March 7, Victor Ancira was shot and killed while armed with a pickax, police said. All others who were shot this year were either holding a gun or had fired a gun earlier in the incident.
Hugo Rene Alvarez, who was fatally shot March 26 while unarmed, had earlier fired from inside a house and wounded an officer. He left the weapon inside when he exited the house, police later confirmed.