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Texas Grand Jury Won’t Indict Cop Who Shot Naked, Unarmed Black Teen

Posted in Austin, Journalism, and MintPress News

Originally published at MintPress News.

AUSTIN, Texas — On Tuesday, a grand jury declined to indict a police officer who shot a naked, unarmed black teen early this year.

Geoffrey Freeman, an Austin police officer, who is also black, shot David Joseph on the morning of Feb. 8 after police received calls about a neighborhood disturbance. Police say Joseph charged at Freeman as he exited his vehicle.

“In a matter of seconds, Freeman commanded Joseph to stop, then opened fire twice, hitting Joseph in the chest and leg, authorities have said,” the Austin American Statesman reported.

Freeman was notified that there were no weapons involved in the disturbance, as evidenced by recordings of the police dispatcher before the shooting.

Black Lives Matter activists gathered soon after the killing. Meme Styles, a community activist, told the Austin Chronicle that Joseph’s death was a sign of systemic problems in policing:

We already knew that our lives did not have that much value. But to have a person that is being reported as naked, as 17 years old, that’s that young, thin – he’s not a big huge guy. [And] to be intimidated by a child, [it] just really demonstrated that we have an issue that needs to be addressed, that there has to be change.

A Black Lives Matter march leaves from Austin City Hall on March 10, 2016. The lead marcher holds a "Justice for David Joseph" sign. (Kit O'Connell)
A Black Lives Matter march leaves from Austin City Hall on March 10, 2016. The lead marcher holds a “Justice for David Joseph” sign. (Kit O’Connell)

In March, Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo suspended Freeman indefinitely over the killing, but the officer appealed the suspension, meaning an independent arbitrator will determine the fate of his job. Freeman is a 10-year veteran of the Austin Police Department, but Acevedo was sharply critical of his actions, according to a report in the Statesman:

In a disciplinary memo, Austin police Chief Art Acevedo wrote that Freeman had committed multiple policy violations, including neglect of duty. Freeman also violated police policy about handling a person who shows signs of substance-induced psychosis, Acevedo wrote.

A March autopsy report showed that Joseph had Xanax and marijuana in his system, but tested negative for drugs like PCP which frequently cause violently erratic behavior.

“District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg’s office announced Tuesday that jurors met for five days and heard testimony from 12 witnesses, including Officer Geoffrey Freeman,” CBS News reported on Tuesday.

According to the Statesman, while it is standard practice to bring cases to a grand jury whenever an officer uses deadly force, “prosecutors have said that as part of their practice, they make no recommendation on whether jurors should issue an indictment.”

“Instead,” Statesman staff reported, “assistant district attorneys present laws to them that could apply … and leave the room during deliberations.”

Jeff Edwards, the attorney for the Joseph family, called it “a sad day for justice” in a statement. He continued:

Failing to secure an indictment when a police officer shoots and kills an unarmed skinny, naked teenager, who the officer outweighed by over 100 pounds, is a failure of will by the district attorney, and calls into question the entire grand jury process in cases involving police misconduct.

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