An Austin police officer who fatally shot a man in East Austin last year will not face charges.
After reviewing the shooting, a Travis County grand jury declined to indict Officer Eric Copeland. Police say he shot Ahmede Bradley three times in the chest after a struggle over Copeland’s handgun. The shooting happened the same night as the killing of APD Officer Jaime Padron, in an unrelated incident.
Critics of Austin police say the process is flawed because the Travis County District Attorney controls access to information presented to the grand jury.
“We need to have an independent District Attorney come in and present these cases to the Grand Jury,” says Jim Harrington with the Texas Civil Rights Project (TCRP), “because the way it is now, the DA essentially whitewashes it every time and it’s really got to stop.”
Bradley’s shooting death was among those that the TCRP and NAACP brought to the attention of the U.S. Department of Justice last year, asking that the DOJ to review whether police are systematically violating residents' civil rights. Austin City Manager Marc Ott recently asked the Justice Department to re-review Austin Police policies.
Below, read a press release from Travis Co. District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg on the grand jury’s findings:
A Travis County Grand Jury has concluded its review of the shooting death of Ahmede Bradley by Austin Police Department (APD) officer Eric Copeland and has determined that no indictment will be issued against the officer.
On April 5th, 2012 Officer Copeland stopped Bradley’s vehicle for a violation of the city’s sound ordinance near the intersection of 51st Street and Manor Road. When Copeland approached the vehicle he smelled the odor of marijuana coming from inside the car. The officer also noticed a white substance on Bradley’s face and saw a bag in the vehicle in which the tops of several small baggies were visible. Suspecting that Bradley was in possession of narcotics, the officer asked Bradley to exit the vehicle. Bradley fled the scene in his vehicle and Officer Copeland returned to his patrol unit and pursued him.
After a short pursuit, Copeland caught up with Bradley in the 5200th block of Overbrook Drive in northeast Austin. Bradley stopped his car and fled on foot with Officer Copeland in pursuit. The two struggled briefly before Bradley broke free and ran across the street. Officer Copeland unsuccessfully attempted to tase Bradley as he ran into the street and Bradley ran into the front yard at 5213 Overbrook, where they again began to struggle.
Two separate witnesses called 911 as they watched the struggle and one reported to the 911 operator that the officer needed help and that the man he was fighting was trying to get the officer’s gun. Both witnesses later told investigators that they believed the officer was in trouble and that they both saw the man repeatedly trying to get the officer’s gun from his holster. Officer Copeland told investigators that the man was on top of him, trying to choke him with his police radio cord and was trying to get Copeland’s gun.
After a two minute struggle, Officer Copeland was able to kick Bradley away from him and when Bradley started coming back toward him, Officer Copeland shot him three times in the chest. Other officers arrived and began performing CPR on Bradley, but he was pronounced dead at the scene.
A bag of marijuana was found in Bradley’s vehicle and bags of cocaine were found in the street in the area where Copeland had attempted to tase Bradley. The postmortem toxicology examination of Ahmede Bradley revealed the presence of several illegal substances.
The Grand Jury met on four separate days and heard from 12 witnesses, including Officer Copeland, the two neighbors who witnessed the incident, Ahmede Bradley’s mother and APD Chief Art Acevedo.