AUSTIN, Texas (TMZUNCUT) — An Austin police sergeant who shot to death a naked and unarmed black teenager on a quiet street will not be criminally prosecuted, but the teen’s mother has filed a federal complaint against him and the city.
The late David Joseph’s mother Ketty Sully says her son’s Feb. 8 killing stems from the city’s poor training, understaffing and de facto acceptance of excessive force, particularly against black men.
The police dispatcher told defendant Sgt. Geoffrey Freeman, who also is black, that “Joseph was unarmed, and that ‘no one was hurt or anything like that,’” according to the June 29 complaint.
Joseph, 5 feet 9 inches tall and 146 lbs., “did not pose a danger that would warrant the use of deadly force by Officer Freeman,” the complaint states, adding that Freeman outweighed Joseph by nearly 100 lbs.
“Despite this, Officer Freeman shot David Joseph twice, killing him. As a result of Geoffrey Freeman’s unreasonable and senseless use of deadly force, David Joseph died and suffered significant pain,” the complaint states.
In a dashcam video, Freeman is not visible but can be heard saying: “Stop right there, man. Stop right there.”
Joseph runs toward the police vehicle and Freeman says: “Don’t move, don’t move, don’t move, don’t move, stop, stop, stop.” Joseph continues running toward Freeman, and two shots ring out.
The autopsy report indicated the shooting was from more than 3 feet away and that Joseph had Xanaxand marijuana in his system, according to the Austin American-Statesman.
After the shooting the Austin Police Association criticized the Austin Police Department and its leadership for “failing to provide adequate training and for endangering officers and the public through understaffing the department and/or by sending officers out on patrol without partners and/or sufficient backup,” according to the complaint.
It adds: “Freeman and numerous other APD officers have been trained by the department that they can use deadly force in similar situations. APD officers, including Freeman, were trained [that] officers can use deadly force rather than take cover.
“Despite this obviously dangerous practice, and actual notice from the CRP [Citizen Review Panel] and others, APD did not correct this training which obviously put citizens, like David Joseph, in danger of police violence.”
Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo had faced complaints that the department was understaffed, which put officers “in recurring situations likely to cause constitutional violations,” Joseph’s mother says in the complaint.
It continues: “After the fact, the Austin Police Department fired Freeman, finding his actions were objectively unreasonable, that David Joseph was not an imminent threat to anyone, and that Freeman used excessive force.”
The complaint then lists eight Austin police shootings and seven deaths since 2003, seven of the victims being black and one Latino. It states that Austin police use deadly force against unarmed people “disproportionately when the victims are African American or people of color,” and that “though African Americans are only 8 percent of the city’s population, they are 35 percent of police shooting victims.”
Acevedo was reprimanded for insubordination and lost five days of pay for comments he made to police cadets on the internal affairs investigation of the shooting.
On Wednesday, Sully’s attorney Jeff Edwards said at a news conference that he wants to “correct one of the greatest injustices and instances of police misconduct that I have seen over my career.”
“David had a constitutional right to be free from excessive and needless force at the hands of a police officer. … Officer Freeman was sent out on a simple disturbance call in which he believed there were mental health issues. We know that the city is understaffed. And we know that Officer Freeman should have waited for backup. What makes this case so egregious is the pattern of discriminatory shootings in the City of Austin.”
A city spokesman said Thursday that Austin had not been served with the lawsuit, “though we are aware that a claim has been made on behalf of Mr. Joseph’s family. If the city does receive a lawsuit, we will take appropriate action to protect the city’s interests based on the allegations in the lawsuit.”
Sully seeks damages for wrongful death, pain and suffering and civil rights violations, and punitive damages from Freeman.
She is represented by Jeff Edwards and Scott Medlock in Austin.