2 key takeaways from the fatal Austin OIS

Following the fatal officer-involved shooting at the Sedona Springs Apartment Complex in Austin (Texas), police agencies across the country should add these two learning points to their roll call notes

An Austin man is dead after he was shot by police officers responding to a suspicious persons call at an apartment complex. Police had spent about an hour searching for a subject who had been seen looking into vehicles in the parking lot when they encountered a man fitting the suspect’s description. 

Following initial contact, a foot pursuit ensued. The responding officers caught up to the man and deployed a TASER in an effort to resolve the problem without resorting to lethal force. Following the TASER deployment, officers gave verbal commands for the proned-out man to put his arms to the side. Instead, the man suddenly rolled over, and in about three seconds, uncorked six shots at the responding officers. Two cops — one who has been on with APD for 23 years and the other for two years — returned fire. They did not miss. 

Although the suspect was shot multiple times, he continued to fight — despite the fact that the responding officers were attempting to administer life-saving aid. Eventually, police were able to disarm the subject and get him into the hands of EMT responders. The man was taken a local hospital where he died in the early hours of the morning. Here are two key learning points we might consider from this incident. 

1. Prone subjects are as potentially deadly as standing ones
Austin Police Chief of Staff Brian Manley said the officers were lucky to walk away uninjured. “Having watched that cell phone, I stand here tonight saying that we are fortunate that we didn't lose an officer tonight,” he said. 

Indeed, Manley is completely correct. Suspects lying flat with hands hidden under chest or waist can produce and fire a gun at an approaching officer faster than a human being can react. They moved away from the gunfire quickly, but they were also incredibly lucky. 

“When he rolled over and produced that weapon and fired at our officers, they were in very close proximity and they did an outstanding job of reacting to the deadly force that was put their way,” Manley said. “It’s unfortunate that we lost a life tonight — that this individual chose to attempt to take an officer’s life and as always we try to preserve life and our hearts go out to the families of this individual once we have him identified — but I say having watched that video, we’re fortunate we’re not standing before you tonight talking about our officers being seriously injured or killed.”

One of the most dangerous positions a suspect can assume on the ground is prone with his hands tucked under his body, either at chest or waist level. Officers have to think, “What’s hidden in those hands? If it’s a gun, how fast can he twist and shoot?”

The answer to that question is, deadly fast — and maybe faster that any cop can respond. 

In a June 2010 Police1 article entitled Prone subjects: Deadly in an instant, Dr. Bill Lewinski, executive director of the Force Science Institute, said, “When a prone suspect resists showing his hands when an officer orders him to or attempts to pry them out, officers become very suspicious and fearful about what his motive is. And justifiably so. FBI research has shown that suspects with concealed weapons most often carry them to the front of their bodies. So, when prone, they may have easy access to a weapon or already be holding one. Until the hands are controlled, officers are very vulnerable in this circumstance.”

As Austin PD Chief of Staff Manley said, the department is fortunate to not have to place mourning bands on their badges. Those cops did everything right during that scenario, and still could have ended up dead. This underscores the incredible difficulty in being a police officer today. It also offers the reminder to be very cautious of a prone subject, even one who has been TASERed and subsequently shot. 

2. Cops should always be the obvious good guy (or gal)
The second takeaway is simple. Do the right thing, at the right time, for the right reasons, and you will inoculate yourself against frivolous complaints, undue media scrutiny and trumped-up criminal charges. 

In part because of the proliferation of cell-phone video, during any street confrontation it is not enough to simply do the right thing — cops must also be heard clearly articulating the right thing. 

In a cell phone video captured by a bystander during the incident in Austin, one officer said, “Hey, we’re trying to get you medical attention, but we can’t do it unless you do what we're telling you. Get on your stomach.” 

Seconds after a subject fired a gun at the officer, he is heard doing everything he could to ensure that the assailant survives — and it’s on video! 

This is what cops across the United States do every day. In order to reverse the trend of anti-cop rhetoric, this is precisely what the mainstream national media needs to have a steady diet of — LEOs being warriors in one moment and guardians in the next (and vice versa). 

Police1 Columnist Dan Marcou teaches the concept of total victory, in which officers involved in any manner of struggle or confrontation not only win decisively but also maintain their status of being viewed by outsiders as being the good guys and/or gals they are.

Heed Dan’s advice. Look at the video of this OIS and think about how you might respond in a similar scenario. Does your PD have an IFAK program and are you confident in how to use that life-saving equipment? 

Think about your verbalization skills. That officer who indicated intentions to render aid during the Austin incident very likely saved that city some settlement money, and note that there were no expletives on that videotape. Keep the F-bombs to a minimum and you place yourself in a more positive light. 

The subject at the Sedona Springs Apartment Complex in Austin got what was coming to him. He shot at those police officers, and he was shot and killed in the process. As has been previously stated in this space, a subject’s compliance is the optimal path to their survival and shooting at a group of cops is not an ideal way to reach retirement. 

It’s a miracle that none of the responding officers were even hurt — let alone killed — in this incident. The video of this event is harrowing, and everyone here at Police1 sends thoughts and prayers to those involved. 

Those cops in Austin did everything they could to prevent this subject’s death. They attempted to use a non-lethal option to subdue the subject and safely take him into custody. They attempted to render aid after shots were fired. 

They did everything right. 

Our thoughts and prayers are with them as they endure the aftermath of this incident. Stay safe guys. 

Recommended for you

Copyright © 2022 Police1. All rights reserved.