Texas chief defends officers after jaywalking arrest video goes viral

The police chief said the officers were justified in the arrest of a woman who refused to identify herself when police approached her

By Philip Jankowski and Ciara O'Rourke
Austin American-Statesman

AUSTIN, Texas — The arrest of a woman who police say jaywalked near the University of Texas campus Thursday drew criticism after a student posted video and photos of the incident online, drawing thousands of views and leading Austin's police chief to defend the officers' actions.

Police on Thursday arrested Amanda Jo Stephen, 24, and charged her with failure to identify after police said she refused to cooperate when an officer attempted to stop her after she was seen disregarding a traffic control device while jogging near the university.

Acevedo said he reviewed all reports and audio recordings of the arrest and concluded that officers acted appropriately in Stephen's arrest. He said the woman had a direct line of sight to an officer in front of her trying to stop her. An officer ran beside her and grabbed her after yelling at her to stop several times, he said.

Stephen used profanity when speaking with officers, leading them to handcuff her, according to the chief. At that point, she sat down of her own accord, went limp and refused to provide officers with her name. Only after being placed in the back of a police car did she provide her name, Acevedo said.

"Quite frankly, she wasn't charged with resisting and she's lucky I wasn't the arresting officer because I wouldn't have been as generous," he said.

Officers assigned to neighborhoods west and north of UT had fielded complaints about people not following pedestrian laws near the campus.Officers patrolled the area Thursday, issuing seven citations and 28 warnings. Acevedo said those assignments are designed to change behavior and "not necessarily" to issue citations or take people to jail.

He noted that 96 pedestrians have been killed and 1,757 injured in collisions with cars since 2009, not including a woman struck by a bus Friday on campus. The pedestrian is often at fault, Acevedo said.

UT junior Christopher Lee Quintero had been at a Starbucks across the street taking photos when he saw an officer grab Stephen and began videotaping her arrest. Quintero posted the video to a blog Thursday afternoon that drew thousands of page views. It shows Stephen sitting down handcuffed and eventually being led to a police car, where she began screaming.

"I was doing nothing wrong. I was crossing the street," she says in the video.

Since its posting, the blog drew more than 50,000 views and was linked in various social media platforms.

Quintero said Friday that Stephen's arrest seemed more dramatic when he witnessed it than it appeared on the video. He found fault with both Austin police and Stephen in the incident.

"I think (officers were) a little excessive," Quintero said. "But (Stephen) started yelling and making commotion. I think she handled it poorly."

"Thank you, Lord, that it is a controversy in Austin, Texas," Acevedo said Friday. "That we actually have the audacity to touch somebody by the arm and tell them, 'Oh, my goodness, Austin police, we're trying to get your attention.' "

Copyright 2014 Austin American-Statesman

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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