AUSTIN (KXAN) — Attorneys have filed a lawsuit against the city of Austin and three of its officers, claiming officers used excessive force against a man who attorneys say had a history of suicidal thoughts.
“His mother was worried about him because he had made suicide threats,” said Jeff Edwards, who is representing James Johnson in the lawsuit. “The police had an obligation to go there.”
Edwards said Johnson’s jaw was broken in the August 2021 incident.
In police body camera video of the incident, you can see three officers responding to Johnson’s home. The start of the video shows Johnson standing in the doorway. He shows his hands and repeatedly says he’s “not a threat”. He is dressed in what appears to be only boxer shorts.
The video shows Johnson and the officers going back and forth between the officers asking him out, and Johnson stating he doesn’t want to leave his home.
You can hear an officer say “I just want to help you” and Johnson respond “If you want to help, you have to listen to me…I promise you I’m not a threat to anyone.”
The video then shows Johnson stepping out further with his hands still up. At this point, officers ordered him to the ground. The officers seem to approach slowly.
Body camera footage then shows Johnson starting to drive home, which is when the officers are speeding up and you can see at least one using a TASER on Johnson. Johnson is now on the ground and the three officers come inside.
Officers are seen in the video trying to handcuff Johnson and heard repeating “put your hands behind your back”. Johnson continues to say, “I’m not a threat,” as officers put one of his hands in handcuffs. Johnson then removes his free hand from the officer’s grasp, and the officers order him to put it back behind his back.
At this point, Johnson’s attorney said video shows another officer banging Johnson’s head into the ground “leaving him bloodied and with a broken jaw.”
“He was rushed and assaulted by three police officers,” attorney Edwards said. “The officers used force immediately, before it was called for.”
The City of Austin has provided the following statement regarding the lawsuit.
“We have not yet been served but we are ready to defend the City and its agents in response to this lawsuit.”
The city spokesperson goes on to say that since the city has not yet been serviced, they are unable to comment further.
While neither the city nor the APD can comment at this time, we have shown the video to Texas Municipal Police Association Executive Director Kevin Lawrence.
“So somebody is worried they’re in danger, and now the police are expected to do something,” Lawrence said. “His reaction is ‘I’m not a danger, so you have no right to contact me.'”
Lawrence said officers have a duty to interact to some degree.
“And now the officers have this quagmire, okay? If they just say oh sorry and walk away and the guy kills himself, what happens next? “, did he declare. “While they’re trying to take him into custody so they can…take him to a medical professional and he’s resisting what he’s done here, we have another set of issues. It’s a no-win situation for the officers.
According to general orders from the APD, “if the incident is an emergency involving a person in a mental health crisis, a Crisis Response Team (CIT) officer will be dispatched as a response officer. major. If a CIT officer is not available, a patrol officer will be dispatched immediately and a CIT officer will respond as soon as possible.
KXAN has not yet been able to independently verify whether and among the officers who responded to Johnson’s home were CIT officers.
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