BLACK VOICES

Texas Grand Jury Does Not Indict Officer Who Fatally Shot Naked Teen

Austin police officer Geoffrey Freeman was not indicted for the fatal shooting of 17-year-old David Joseph.

A Texas grand jury has decided not to bring charges against an Austin police officer who fatally shot an unarmed and naked teenage male in February, a local prosecutor said on Tuesday.

Officer Geoffrey Freeman was permanently suspended in March, a procedural step for firing, after he was found to have violated department policy by shooting black 17-year-old David Joseph a few seconds after confronting him.

Freeman, who also is African American and has worked as an Austin police officer for 10 years, appealed the suspension.

The case drew scrutiny as questions of racial bias in U.S. policing have been raised after the fatal shootings of several unarmed African-American men by police in recent months.

The grand jury met on five separate days and heard testimony from 12 witnesses, including Freeman and members of Joseph's family, before reaching its decision, the Travis County District Attorney's office said in a statement.

It said Freeman stopped his patrol car about 100 feet from Joseph and drew his gun. Joseph ran toward he officer, who ordered him to stop and Freeman fired two shots when he did not, the district attorney's office said, adding both shots hit Joseph.

Jeff Edwards, the attorney for the Joseph family, said the decision not to indict marked a sad day for justice.

"Failing to secure an indictment when a police officer shoots and kills an unarmed, skinny, naked teenager, who the officer outweighed by over 100 pounds, is a failure of will by the district attorney, and calls in to question the entire grand jury process in cases involving police misconduct," Edwards said in a statement.

An autopsy found that Joseph had two prescription drugs and marijuana in his system at the time he was shot, local TV station KVUE reported.

A police group backing the officer said there was a rush to judgment in the case by Austin Police Department leaders and applauded the decision not to indict.

(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

 
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