Crowds packed the Carver museum in East Austin Thursday, demanding answers from Austin police on what they say is a history of misuse of deadly force against minorities.
The town hall meeting comes in the wake of the officer-involved shooting that killed Larry Jackson, Jr. last month.
Jackson, 32, was shot by 19-year veteran Detective Charles Kleinert of the Austin Police Department in the afternoon hours of July 26. Police say they have evidence Jackson was going to commit fraud at the Benchmark Bank on 35th Street. Jackson fled from the bank after briefly talking with Kleinert outside the building, which was closed due to an earlier, unrelated robbery. The detective took off after Jackson, employing help from a citizen motorist.
After what has been described as a scuffle underneath a nearby bridge, Kleinert shot Jackson in the back of the neck. The 32-year-old father was not armed.
“I will tell you right now, in front of all these people, I am very sorry about your loss and my heart goes out to you, and my heart goes out to those little children that don’t have their dad,” Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo said.
Acevedo reinforced a message he has repeated for years—it’s not a good idea to run from police. The chief asked the crowd, “If you know there are bad cops, why would you run?”
“We’ve got to keep talking to people that we cannot run. No matter what you’ve done, please don’t run,” Acevedo said.
Snehal Shingavi, a University of Texas professor, replied to the chief saying, “You can’t both say there are going to be bad apples in the police force who may discharge their weapons at you, who may shoot you, who may be racist, who may be bad cops, and tell people not to run. That is fundamentally a contradiction.”
Robert Muhammad with the Nation of Islam also rebutted Acevedo message, saying, “It doesn't matter whether you run, it doesn't matter whether you stand your ground, but if you do it, you'll end up in the ground. That's the message that we're hearing today.”
Acevedo said they are working on a methodical investigation to seek answers into why Detective Kleinert’s decided to shoot.
“At the end of the day what we need, first step, is to get to the truth, wherever that may take us. My commitment to you is that we will get to that truth,” the chief said.
The town hall was full of tense exchanges and at times loud banter, Muhammad told the crowd he would not harbor a fear of police.
"I am not teaching my beautiful sons, I have three of them, I am not teaching they should scratch where they don't itch when they are pulled over,” he said. “I am not teaching them they should lower their gaze lower than an authority figure. I am not teaching them they are less of a human being, or a man, or my daughter, a woman, than anybody who is authority."