Austin Police

Mark Dewey for KUT News

Good morning and happy Friday. It may be a long weekend for many as Labor Day approaches.

It's Official: Longhorn Network on AT&T U-verse

University of Texas at Austin Women's Athletic Director Chris Plonsky confirms this morning that the Longhorn Network is now available for AT&T U-verse customers.

The Twittersphere is buzzing with the news that the LHN is now available on AT&T U-verse channel 1609.

In a report KUT News aired this morning, David Preschlack, ESPN’s head of affiliate relations said: “We’re doing everything that we can to get full distribution of the network. There’s nothing more important that I’m working on personally. And to me this is not an if, it’s a when, and we’re hopeful that we get there just as quickly as possible.”

That “when” finally sounds like "now" for local Longhorn fans.


Austin Police Want New Helicopter, More Staff

The council is set to discuss purchasing a new helicopter for the Austin Police Department today.

The department says its current fleet is old and in need of maintenance and that a new helicopter would enable officers to more quickly respond to some emergencies.

APD also wants council to approve a bigger budget for the department so it can hire more staff.

West Nile Death in Williamson County

West Nile virus is being blamed for the death of a Williamson County woman. It’s the county’s first West Nile virus related death of the year. One person in Travis County died late last month.

Both patients were over 60 years-old; the woman in Williamson County was over 90. A total of six people in that county have been infected with West Nile virus. At least 16 people in Travis County have contracted the disease.

So far this season, Texas has seen the worst of the West Nile virus outbreak. Ten people have died from the disease in Dallas County. Eleven cities in Dallas County have agreed to fight the mosquitos via aerial spraying. Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins declared a state of emergency.

Austin Police Department

This year’s “Run with the Heroes 5K Run/Walk” to benefit Special Olympics of Texas will be held in honor of Austin Police Officer Jaime Padron.

Padron was killed in the line of duty while responding to a call at an Austin Wal-Mart earlier this year.

The 5th annual run/walk is scheduled for September 16.

View Suspicious Death in a larger map

One eastbound lane of W. Cesar Chavez Street  is shut down and part of the Hike and Bike Trail is closed as Austin Police investigate a suspicious death.

APD says a bicyclist called police just after 8 a.m. when he found a man lying near the trail. The man was dead in a sleeping bag with obvious trauma. Officers say he appears to have been homeless.

Senior Police Officer Veneza Bremner says it’s unclear how long the man was there but says the location is noteworthy because it’s very public area.

Nathan Bernier, KUT News

Austin’s Human Rights Commission could take action tonight on recommending a “preservation of life” standard in the Austin Police Department’s Response to Resistance Policy.

The ACLU has been pushing for the police department to include language in their policy that would basically say deadly force should be used as a last resort.

Human Rights Commissioner Elizabeth Brenner says the commission talked about adding the language back in 2010 but that the issue is front and center again because of recent, deadly officer-involved shootings.

Courtesy Texas Department of Public Safety

Thirteen people are reported dead and 10 others injured, after a pickup truck carrying 23 passengers crashed into a tree in South Texas Sunday evening.

“This is the most people I've seen in any passenger vehicle, and I've been an officer for 38 years,” Gerald Bryant, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Public Safety told the Associated Press.

Officials believe the passengers may be illegal immigrants. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Border Patrol Agents were called in to assist with the investigation. “It's unknown whether or not (the victims) were illegal, but it's possible,” Bryant told the AP.

Austin police have noted the popularity of similar trucks in the transport of undocumented immigrants before.

Nathan Bernier for KUT News

The Office of the Austin Police Monitor 2011 annual report is filled with sobering statistics.  

Minorities, particularly blacks and Hispanics, are more likely to be searched during a traffic stop than whites, the report found. Traffic stops resulted in a search one out of eight times for black drivers and one out of ten times for Hispanics, but only one out of 28 times for white Austinites. The report also shows that there was an increase in formal complaints against police, from 316 cases in 2010 to 344 in 2011. 

But separate from the statistics is the OPM's Serious Incident Review, highlighting "the more serious cases" the office addressed in 2011. While ethnicity and incident location are omitted in these write-ups, they include a detailed sequence of events, as well as the cases’ outcomes.

Ben Philpott for KUT News

Voter ID Trial Continues

Closing arguments are set to begin today in the Texas Voter ID trial in Washington, D.C.

The law would require voters to present a government-issued photo ID at the polls.

A three-judge panel will decide whether the Texas law violates the Voting Rights Act by making it harder for minorities to cast a ballot. The U.S. Department of Justice argues that it does.

But lawyers for the state say the law wouldn’t disenfranchise minority voters. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott hopes the judges will agree and that the law will be in place in time for the November election.

Wells Dunbar, KUT News

A new study commissioned by the city shows the Austin Police Department is very busy and “struggling somewhat” to keep up with calls for service.

The study was done by the Police Executive Research Forum, a non-profit law enforcement think tank. And it says the city’s current model of two officers per 1,000 people isn’t working. The study says APD needs more than 250 new officers and staff by 2017.

Wayne Vincent is the president Austin Police Association. He says the effect of short staffing is already having an effect on the city.

“There’s very little uncommitted time for police officers," Vincent says. "They’re going from call to call. There’s no chance to get to know people in the neighborhood, visit with business owners, individuals in the community. So the target is to have that uncommitted time so the officer can be proactive instead of reactive.”

KUT News

Austin has a new Twitter power user: Police Chief Art Acevedo.

While Chief Acevedo is a recent addition to the Twitterverse, having signed up this April, he’s wasted little time in utilizing the social communications tool. While Acevedo uses Twitter to communicate with citizens and share safety updates, it also shows him in a casual light, sometimes joking and complaining.

There’s been some undeniable complaints in Acevedo’s most recent string of tweets, coming all the way from Northampton, England. The police chief is part of a delegation from Austin traveling across the pond to observe a Formula 1 race at the nearby Silverstone circuit. While Acevedo and other city officials have justified the trip as a way to bolster public safety for Austin's upcoming F1 race, others have criticized the trip as a junket.

Study Advises APD to Grow with City

A new study commissioned by the City of Austin recommends the Austin Police Department increase its staffing numbers by over 250 by 2017.

The study, released by the Police Executive Research Forum, a nonprofit organization which has studied police departments around the nation, suggested APD increase its officer-to-population ratio to 2.11 officers per one thousand residents. Right now, Austin has 2.08 officers per one thousand residents.

The department spends 57 percent of its time responding to calls, leaving little time “to engage the community, solve local crime and disorder problems, or patrol hot spots,” says the report. The study recommends aiming to drop the time spent responding to calls to 45 percent.

City of Yuma, Arizona

The temperature isn’t the only thing rising this July: So is auto theft.

July is one of the more popular months for car thieves in Texas, according to the Austin Police Department.

This month, police are taking part in a “Watch Your Car” campaign, which aims to educate Austinites on ways they can prevent their cars from being stolen.

APD will be at the Barton Creek Mall today from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. to offer community services designed to curb car thefts.

Filipa Rodrigues, KUT News

The City of Austin’s Public Safety Commission could take action today on a proposal to extend the anti-loitering “No Sit, No Lie”  ordinance to the 12th and Chicon area – an area often reputed for drugs and prostitution.

The ordinance bans anyone from sitting or sleeping on streets near businesses, banks, and ATMs. It’s mostly in effect in downtown Austin, but some are urging it expand to the Eastside.

Members of the Blackshear and Prospect Hill Neighborhood Association has been trying to bring No Sit, No Lie east of I-35 since 2005. But neighbors are split on whether it’s the best solution.

KUT News

Deadline to Register to Vote in Run-off Elections

Today is the last day to register to vote in the July 31 Primary Run-off election.

You can find a registration form at or at local libraries or post offices. Forms must be post-marked by today.

Paulo Martins for KUT News

The Austin City Council wrapped up its Thursday meeting at 3:45 a.m. Friday morning.

Council members rejected a proposal to build a $5 million temporary customs and immigration processing facility at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.

They postponed until August a discussion on ordinance changes for short-term housing rentals.

Austin Police Department

The Austin American-Statesman is reporting that a grand jury has returned a indictment charging Brandon Daniel with the April shooting death of Austin police officer Jaime Padron at a North Austin Wal-Mart.

Update: Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo refuted claims the department uses excessive force against minorities at a press conference this afternoon.

The chief’s heated speech came after the Austin NAACP formally filed a complaint with the Department of Justice against APD for alleged mistreatment of Hispanics and African-Americans.

Acevedo said that occasional use of force is an ugly reality of the job for many police officers. “We can’t change law to take away officers’ rights to defend themselves or others,” he said.

Nathan Bernier, KUT Staff

Parking is becoming a problem at Zilker Park.

The Austin Police Department is trying to curb citations and towings at large events there like Blues on the Green, KGSR’s free biweekly concert event. The last concert saw 22 citations for illegal parking.

Police held a press conference today warning concert-goers to avoid tow-away zones like residential driveways, and stay off  lawns and high grass.

Austin Police Department

Regional officials alleged today that Amado Pardo, the owner of Jovita’s Mexican Restaurant in South Austin, led a prison-gang connected heroin ring that moved between $3,400 and $6,250 worth of drugs daily.

Officials from the Austin Police, the FBI, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s Office of the Inspector General and other agencies announced 18 arrests and the seizure of over $1.5 million in assets in a press conference this afternoon, “including a well-known restaurant on South First Street, Jovita’s,” said APD Assistant Chief Sean Mannix.  

Patrick Loll, an FBI assistant special agent for Central Texas, said Pardo lead a “heroin distribution network that has operated here for over a decade.”