August 22, 2013

An Austin, Texas man who was fired at upon exiting his vehicle during a routine traffic stop is suing the city as well as the Austin Police Department alleging officers have been improperly trained on how and when to use their firearms.

“He turned on his lights,” James Barton, 55, explained to Austin news station KVUE. “I pulled over, reached for my wallet and opened my door. I was getting out when a bullet came flying past my head. He missed.”

“The police are armed with all kinds of things to disable an individual — tasers, pepper spray, batons. The first thing they grab is their gun,” Barton said.

Barton’s lawsuit provides one more example of how police in America are increasingly viewing the citizens they’re supposed to protect as criminals right off the bat.

Austin in particular has witnessed a surge in the number of officers “jumping the gun,” all-too-eager to shoot first and ask questions later. “Jim Harrington, the president of the Texas Civil Rights Project, pointed to a list of six questionable officer-involved shootings since 2011,” KVUE reported.

One shooting likely not included in Harrington’s report was an October 2010 case involving a 16-year-old who was shot and killed after running away from the scene of an alleged shoplifting that took place at a Big Lots store in South Austin. Police initially reported that the boy shot at officers, but they later revised their statement after dash cam footage showed no shots were fired. Earlier this year, a lawsuit filed by the boy’s father against APD was dismissed.

And just last month, an Austin detective shot and killed a man after he ran from the scene of a bank robbery. Larry Eugene Jackson Jr. arrived at a Central Austin bank after a bank robbery had taken place, knocked on the bank’s door, and reportedly gave the bank manager a false identification. Jackson took off on foot when a detective began talking to him. He was chased and shot in the back of the neck. Police “have reason to believe Jackson was there to commit a fraud,” according to YNN News. Earlier this month, the Texas Attorney General’s office ruled his death a “justifiable homicide.”

In light of an increase in officer-involved shootings, the city has asked the U.S. Department of Justice to review the department’s practices.

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