Austin Police

Photo by Divya Darsi for KUT News

Pounds of pot, kilos of cocaine and bundles of bills were on display at an Austin police station today.

The department’s organized crime division was showing off what it obtained from three major drug seizures over the past month. APD Assistant Chief Sean Mannix said officers also captured more than six-and-a-half pounds of tar heroin.

"In talking to the other officers and detectives, supervisors in the room, none of us in our memories can remember a seizure of heroin that large in the city of Austin,” said Assistant Chief Mannix. “It’s a tremendous amount of heroin."

Photo courtesy flickr.com/webhostingreview

A report on racial profiling shows the number of people stopped by the Austin Police Department for traffic violations dropped in 2011.

In 2011, police executed 5,050 vehicle searches on Hispanics, 3,505 searches on whites, and 3,037 searches on African-Americans.

“Austin police officers made 179,882 motor vehicle stops in 2011 compared to 232,848 in 2010,” the report reads:

The primary reason for a motor vehicle stop is a traffic violation such as speeding, an illegal turn, expired registration and other violations of the transportation code.

Photo by Emily Donahue, KUT News

With a string of recent auto-pedestrian fatalities, the Austin Police Department announced it's enhancing its Pedestrian Enforcement Safety Team initiative by targeting drivers at crosswalks – and using officers as decoys.

There have been eight pedestrians and bicyclists killed in crashes so far this year. Police Chief Art Acevedo said drunk drivers and drunken pedestrians contribute to Austin’s number of pedestrian deaths, but drivers that fail to yield to pedestrians are responsible for more deaths than drunk drivers.

Photo by KUT News

Texas Challenges Voting Rights Act

Texas is challenging the constitutionality of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act that requires the state to get pre-clearance from the Justice Department for any change to voting procedures. Yesterday Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott filed that petition to a three-judge panel in Washington.

Photo courtesy Travis Co. District Attorney's office

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.

Photo courtesy Texas Dept. of Public Safety; Police image courtesy City of Austin

A grand jury has declined to indict the Austin Police officer that shot and killed Byron Carter Jr. last year, according to the Austin American-Statesman.

Austin Homeless Icon Leslie Transferred to Hospice

Local transgendered celebrity, Leslie Cochran, was transferred out of hospital care and into an area hospice provider this weekend says community activist and friend, Debbie Russell. Russell says Leslie remains in critical condition and is receiving comfort care.

Photo courtesy palmereventscenter.com

Think about corporate retreats, and you’ll likely envision team-building exercises. But no zip-lining or “trust falls” are on the Austin City Council’s retreat agenda today – just policy planning.

This morning, the council is decamping to the Palmer Events Center for a “policy retreat work session,” a chance to meet and discuss upcoming topics and initiatives. Five topics are on the agenda:

  • Using the upcoming Comprehensive Plan “for policy guidance and planning,” a topic from council member Laura Morrison.
  • Fostering collaboration with counties and school districts in the city limits, sponsored by council member Kathie Tovo.
  • A “review of past and existing City youth programs,” also from Tovo.
  • “Community public safety goals and resource allocation priorities,” from council member Bill Spelman.
  • A discussion of the structuring of council committees –  groups tasked with delving into specific topics like public health or city finances – as proposed by council member Chris Riley.

Image courtesy austintexas.gov

Downtown revelers will need to take extra precautions this Fat Tuesday. Several street closures are in effect this evening, while Austin Police have announced the holiday means another “No Refusal” action where police can subpoena and draw suspected drunk drivers’ blood.

As seen in the map detail above, full closures are in effect on all the side streets off of Sixth, between the southbound I-35 access road and Brazos, starting at 9 p.m. Neches, from Sixth to Seventh street, will also be closed starting at 5:30 p.m.  You can view a full map of the closures on the city website.

Photo by Ihwa Cheng for KUT News

LCRA Board to Discuss Water Management Plan

The Lower Colorado River Authority's (LCRA) Water Operations Committee is meeting today and on the agenda is the new Water Management Plan. The full LCRA board will discuss the new plan and possibly take action tomorrow.

Photo by Nasha Lee for KUT News

Austin Crime Lab Receives Second Complaint

As reported by The Austin American-Statesman, the Austin Police Department's crime lab has received a second complaint. The complaint comes from an independent lab in North Texas claiming it received different results than the Austin lab when testing the same evidence. 

Photo courtesy Texas Dept. of Public Safety; Police image courtesy City of Austin

A meeting was held last night on the May 2011 police shooting death of Byron Carter, a 20-year old African-American killed by Austin police officer Nathan Wagner. 

Wagner shot Carter four times during the incident. According to police and press accounts, Wagner and another officer approached Carter and his 16-year old African-American companion on suspicion the pair were casing cars parked in an area just east of downtown. Carter and his friend (unnamed in reports due to his age) then entered a car and attempted to leave.

Image courtesy trapster.com

Here in Austin, we’re used to appearing in a ton of Top 10 lists.

But here’s one honor we might not be too excited about: Austin has been named one of ten American cities with the most speed traps.

Austin’s infamous Yogurt Shop Murders may be getting a fresh set of eyes.

The 1991 crime – the assault and murder of four young Austin women at an I Can’t Believe It’s Yogurt! shop in north Austin, which was then set ablaze – has never been solved.

In 1999, Austin Police arrested four suspects in connection with the crime: Robert Springsteen, Michael Scott, Maurice Pierce, and Forrest Wellborn. Charges were dropped against the latter two suspects. Springsteen and Scott were convicted but ultimately released after a DNA swab from one of the victims – not originally available in 1991– confirmed the existence of an unknown suspect the police have been unable to identify.

However, the District Attorney’s office have continued to treat Springsteen and Scott as prime suspects. When the DNA evidence was released in 2009, D.A. Rosemary Lehmberg told The Austin Chronicle the new evidence “does not exonerate anybody."

At a hastily called press conference this afternoon, the Austin Police Department confirmed they had a suspect in the New Year’s murder of Esme Barrera, a widely known, well-liked member of Austin’s music community.

They also said that their suspect, James Loren Brown, is dead, apparently of a suicide.

The Austin Chronicle reports more details:

Update: The following announcement is posted on the Manor ISD website:

Photo by KUT News

The Austin Police Department crime lab is getting another round of scrutiny.

The Travis County District Attorney’s office announced yesterday they referred allegations of sloppy work at APD’s crime lab to the Texas Department of Public Safety and local criminal defense attorneys for review.

Photo by Nathan Bernier, KUT News

The shock and disbelief at Esme Barrera’s murder early New Year’s Day – shared in a stream of social media updates – is giving way to questions about the police investigation.

As the young and vibrant Barrera was friends with dozens, if not hundreds in Austin’s close-knit music scene and beyond (including, I should note, this reporter), the news of her death spread rapidly over Facebook and Twitter.

But while many posts are links to tributes and fundraising initiatives, many others are pointedly questioning the Austin Police Department’s response that morning, and the subsequent manhunt.

Photo courtesy of http://forouresmeb.blogspot.com

The death of 29-year-old Esme Barrera has prompted a public outpouring of grief as family, friends and members of Austin’s music community come to terms with her unexplained murder. Barrera was found dead inside her home on King Street around 3 a.m. on January 1, according to KXAN, after ringing in the New Year at the 29th Street Ballroom & Spider House just a few blocks away.

University of Texas police have released a composite sketch of a man believed to be responsible for at least one other sexual assault in that area early Sunday morning. 

"We do not know yet if the three incidents are related, but we are releasing information on all three incidents in hopes of alerting the public and also receiving information from the public," UT police said in an alert issued Monday night. 

UT police describe the suspect as:

  • Black Male
  • Aged 30 to 40
  • Approximately 6″, muscular build
  • Large, dark brown eyes
  • Last seen wearing a grey hooded jacket over dark-colored t-shirt and blue jeans

You can report information at APD's Homicide Tip Line at 512-477-3588 or Crimestoppers at 512-472-TIPS.

Barrera was active in Austin’s music community. She was a Girls Rock Camp Austin counselor and mentored bands. She was a regular at Waterloo Records, which posted the single word, “Heartbroken” on its Facebook page early this morning.

Local civil rights activists want Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo to fire Nathan Wagner, an APD officer who shot and killed 20-year old Byron Carter, Jr. May 2011. Carter was a passenger in a car that struck and injured a police officer. The teen driver was shot in the arm but survived.

Chief Acevedo has 180-days from the incident to make a decision. That deadline is Saturday. Acevedo today notified the State Attorney General that he is delaying a disciplinary decision until a criminal investigation into Wagner’s actions is completed.

In a press release, Acevedo said the delay was intended to protect “the ongoing criminal investigation and the integrity of the criminal justice process."

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