AUSTIN (KXAN) — Police say the black teenager who was shot and killed by an Austin police officer on Monday morning was unarmed. David Joseph, 17, was shot by Officer Geoffrey Freeman, who is also black, in the 1200 block of Natures Bend.
Officer Freeman was originally called to an apartment complex in the 300 block of East Yager Lane for a report of a man chasing another man around the complex. When Freeman arrived, he spoke to the witness but was not able to immediately locate the suspect, until a short time later on Natures Bend. In a verbal statement given by Freeman at the scene, when he encountered Joseph he gave him several commands to stop, but Joseph continued to “charge” towards him. The Austin Police Department’s Chief of Staff Brian Manley said it was then that Freeman fired the shots at Joseph, which occurred out of frame from the officer’s dash camera.
The dash camera footage will be a key piece of evidence in the case, which was reviewed by Manley at the scene. When asked if other options were used to subdue Joseph and how much time before he was shot, Manley said the dash cameras shows “it was a matter of seconds between when the officer commanded him to stop and when the shots were fired.” At this time they are not releasing how many shots were fired, but neighbors told KXAN they heard multiple gunshots.
Manley said there are strict APD policies regarding excessive use of force, which is why their policies will be reviewed when looking at how Officer Freeman responded to Joseph.
The investigation into the shooting will be conducted by Internal Affairs, a citizens review panel and criminal investigators to determine if Freeman was in compliance with the law. The case will also be presented to a grand jury.
The autopsy is being conducted by the Travis County Medical Examiner’s Office, who will be able to determine if there were any alcohol or drugs in Joseph’s system at the time of the shooting.
“Anytime there is a life lost we do view this as a tragic event at the department, our hearts go out to his family for their loss,” said Manley.
Freeman, who has been with the department for 10 years, is currently on administrative duty, which is standard procedure.
The Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas released a statement regarding Officer Freeman: “Officer Freeman is a member of CLEAT and we are representing him throughout the legal and administrative process. He has not been charged with anything. We encourage the community, while grieving, to have patience and allow the process to go forward until all of the facts are known.”
Samone Morales, 19, and Michelle Aguoru, 18, told KXAN they lived near Joseph and have known him since middle school. The three attended Connally High School in North Austin together.
“I don’t understand why he was naked, and why [police] felt the need to shoot him if he didn’t have any weapons,” said Morales.
“He was very smart. That’s really what I want people to know about him,” said Aguoru. “It makes me really upset to think from on the outside looking in they’re gonna think he’s some thug. Whatever was wrong, that’s not how he usually is and he knows better.”
Joseph’s family issued a statement Tuesday evening, calling for a fair investigation.
Our family is devastated today by the loss of our beloved son and brother, David. We are shocked and saddened that he was taken from us in an unexpected and violent way, and are struggling to understand how our child was stolen from us by the police.
David was a high school senior, who dreamed of going to college this fall. He played football and soccer for his school, and loved to listen to music. He had a life full of possibilities in front of him.
We want a full and fair investigation into what led Officer Freeman to kill David. David had no weapon. We do not know what lead to his meeting with Officer Freeman, but we know that our David should not have been taken away from us. No family should have to suffer like we are today.”
Response to Deadly Shooting
On Tuesday, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Texas issued the following statement:
“Two Texas officer-involved fatal shootings of unarmed black men within days is beyond tragic, because we have the answers to avoid these senseless deaths. Last year, the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing released its recommendations for building public trust by focusing on police accountability and training. It’s clear that officers whose first instinct is to reach for their guns pose a threat to communities of color. The need is urgent: Officers must be provided with de-escalation training and law enforcement agencies must hold officers who use excessive and lethal force to account. We cannot afford another loss of life.”