A Travis County grand jury has decided not to indict Austin Police Department officer Nathan Wagner for the May 30 shooting death of Byron Carter, Jr. You can view several photos released from the grand jury investigation above.
Officer Wagner and Officer Jeffrey Rodriguez were searching an area along East Eighth street as part of an initiative targeting auto theft. They encountered 20-year-old Carter and a teenager. (Due to the teen’s age, the individual has not been identified.)
The officers say the two were acting suspiciously and they started following them. Carter and the other person then got into a car and police say the teen driver accelerated toward the two officers.
Announcing the grand jury’s finding today, Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg described what happened next: "Officer Wagner heard Officer Rodriguez scream and saw him fall on the other side of the fleeing vehicle. Thinking that his partner was being run over or was being dragged, Wagner pulled his weapon and fired five times.”
The shots were all fired within 1.5 seconds of each other. In a prepared statement, Lehmberg says “The fourth shot was through the driver’s side window and struck Byron Carter, Jr. in the head before exiting out the passenger side window.” You can read her remarks online.
Lehmberg lauded the work of the grand jury, describing its composition as “consisting of five African Americans, three Hispanics, three Asian Americans and one Caucasian.”
Soon after the D.A.'s announcement, Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo told reporters an internal investigation showed Wagner acted appropriately and that he will soon return to patrol. When asked if there was something that could have prevented this fatal incident, Acevedo said the driver could have allowed the officers to approach the car: "Because we know that that kind of behavior sets into motion events that can lead to the use of deadly force.”
But the Carter family attorney, Adam Loewy, says even after a grand jury and a separate police investigation, his clients still don't have the answers they deserve.
"My clients and I believe this officer should have been indicted,” Loewy tells KUT News. “Byron Carter was a completely innocent young man, completely innocent and he was shot four separate times. And there's still been no reasonable explanation why this young man is dead."
Local activists and community leaders have announced an open meeting this Saturday at Southwest Keys Programs, 6002 Jain Lane, 3 p.m. to go over the grand jury's ruling and talk about next steps.