AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - Austin police permanently suspended a police officer on Monday for violating department policy regarding the use of deadly force when he fatally shot an unarmed and naked teenager in February.
Officer Geoffrey Freeman plans to appeal the decision and will be fired if an arbitrator upholds his permanent suspension, Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo told a news conference.
Freeman shot 17-year-old David Joseph a few seconds after confronting him. Ahead of the shooting, Austin police said they had received multiple phone calls of the suspect acting suspiciously and aggressively before they dispatched officers. Both Freeman and the victim are black.
“We hold our officers accountable, especially when it relates to deadly force,” Acevedo said, adding he is confident the department’s disciplinary process can withstand an appeal in this matter.
The case will now go to county prosecutors to see if criminal charges will be filed, he said.
Freeman, who has worked as an Austin police officer for 10 years, had been placed on administrative leave pending the results of the police investigation.
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.
The Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas (CLEAT), a police union, called the decision to terminate Freeman unjust and politically motivated.
“CLEAT will use the resources necessary to ensure that Officer Freeman’s good name is restored and that he will be back to work serving the community he’s called home all of his life,” Charley Wilkison, Executive Director of CLEAT, said in a statement.
Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Sandra Maler