Colored drawing by Anthony Jensen

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Mea Culpa

I apologize for a recent statement made on my FaceBook page about “ego,” and it’s possible role in the recent death of an APD officer. My sincere regrets go to the community, the family, fellow officers and friends of Officer Padron - also to my many colleagues who were being asked to defend me or who stand in disappointment of me. My comment was not thoughtful, and the follow up context in which I had hoped explained it further was lost in the fray. But I take responsibility for that, as the initial statement reflected the very thing I was condemning: my ego.

Words matter, and my words matter more than I realized – and social media is WAY more powerful than I realized (my concurrent comments to the press never spoke to the officer's death; merely Ahmede Bradley’s-see below). I shirked my responsibility as a community activist in not taking this into consideration first.

I regret increasing the conflict, when normally I pride myself on encouraging conflict resolution.

Live and learn.

Please know I spoke only on behalf of myself. Not on behalf of any organization or board I sit on and NO ONE should have to answer for me BUT me. I hope some out there will now stop using my words against organizations I'm affiliated with, as that is entirely unfair.

Tragedy breeds more pain. How we react to it is a testament and/or an indictment of our humanity. I am not proud of the words I used, no matter how "right" I believe my sentiment to be. I admit my mistake and ask for forgiveness of my lack of judgment as I strive to improve myself as an a human.

My point, if it matters at this juncture, was to search for a common thread between the two adjacent deaths in an attempt to prevent further deaths and in an attempt to make sense of the senseless coincidence. In the Bradley shooting, it seems pretty clear to me and much of the community (and I’m understanding even many officers), that the foot chase was in violation of APD policy. Chief Acevedo changed the foot pursuit policy in 2008 to avoid this very thing.

I extended that thought process to the Wal-Mart incident, because as I understood it, the shooter didn't pull out his gun until he first tried to flee, and Officer Padron jumped on him to subdue him. I posited that if he allowed him to flee the store, it may have lessened the danger. In my comments, I didn't contextualize what we all know to be true: things happen fast and split decisions are easy to question in hindsight. Padron simply didn’t know he was dealing with an armed individual. This has to be an officer’s worst nightmare scenario.

Amy Donovan was our last officer to die in the line of duty (in 2004)--and she was pursuing a suspected drug user. This is a major reason the Chief, upon DOJ's recommendation, changed the policy. Non-violent crimes shouldn't be met with force that amplifies the chance for injury or death. I readily admit we don't have enough information yet on the Wal-Mart incident to pass thorough judgment, and in that, I failed. I also failed in first relaying my condolences - which are sincere, despite former appearances.

Just as I never intended to put blame on Officer Padron, I do not blame Officer Donovan for what is a matter of instinct – a matter of expectations in policing – of “getting your man" despite all risks. This is not policy, this is not training; yet there is pressure amongst the ranks that I hope becomes a point of discussion for further changes….just as the community needs to have its own discussions about interfacing with police and reacting as a community to police abuse.

My biggest regret, beyond any pain I’ve caused others, in this is that I made the same mistake I've often accused Chief Acevedo of...of speaking too soon, and of –however unintentionally– laying blame on the victim in doing so. Immediately following the Sanders, Contreras and Carter shootings, the Chief did just that...and never apologized for it.

It's been proven in expert discovery and the independent KeyPoint report (backed by both the first Internal Affairs report and the Citizens Review Panel recommendation) that there was no struggle for a gun before Sanders was shot; there wasn't time...yet the Chief said it "appeared to be a good shooting" hours following the death. The Chief said hours after the Contreras death, before having watched the video, that Devin shot first...that didn't happen. The Chief said hours after the Carter death "they used the car as a weapon" which was belied by the lack of an indictment against the driver. He has said about the Carter and Bradley shootings that “people shouldn’t run from the police,” which sends a message that it is their fault they were shot and killed.

I offer these parallels not as an excuse…but as a point to say that “in this matter, I’ve been a hypocrite.” I jumped to a conclusion and put it out there publicly before waiting for facts. Yes, my comments have taken on a life of their own – and I’m being quoted as saying things I’ve not said, such as: “it’s Padron’s fault he was killed.” I would never say that, any more than the Chief would outright say that about a victim of police shooting. But it shouldn’t stop either of us questioning preventative measures, even though neither of us like hearing the other say it.

My intention was to start a dialog, even knowing I didn’t have all the facts yet. My intention was not malicious - it was to question the culture we live in and the culture of policing, in an attempt to prevent more deaths.

My intention was to understand what we did know about the police shooting…why Officer Padron was the sole responder, what might have gone differently if back up had arrived concurrent to his response…if the gun would have appeared had he not tried to subdue him in the store. I know these are hard questions immediately following. I know many feel “it’s too soon,” but I think immediacy is important to prevent another similar tragedy. I won’t apologize for asking those questions, but I do wholeheartedly apologize for the words I chose in that one forum.

I understand many people will never forgive or forget. I can only ask that people focus less attention on me, and my thoughtlessness, and more on the dialog around the need to improve our pubic safety practices such that no one dies before their time.

I never got to meet Officer Padron, and have only heard good things about him and his time on the force. My heart goes out to all who were touched by this loss. I value all life equally. I recognize that I didn't exhibit that last Saturday when I posted the statement in my exhaustion and heightened emotion.

These adjacent deaths put a strain on us all. Austin wasn’t prepared for this. Our collective selves are still in shock. We look at the pain around us, from wars abroad to our recession; from the Zimmerman case to here at home, and wonder if something is spinning out of our control. I think once we step back, we’ll see this is not the case – that this horrific coincidence was just that – a coincidence.

We can't control everything around us...we can't account for the insanity of a few (except for where we fail in social services), so when I speak loudly about police abuse on others, some see it as a lack of empathy for the police perspective. I don’t lack that empathy, but there are plenty of voices to speak to that. In my attempt to control the one thing we should have some control over— public safety officials …as we pay their salaries; as they take an oath to serve and protect…I hastily jumped to find an answer to why a second death came upon our community in one night.

I am open to respond to individual questions on this matter and appreciate any input on how to move forward.

Again, my apologies to those I’ve brought pain to…including to Chief Acevedo, who, apart from the families and friends of the deceased, is experiencing probably the most distress from the respective fall out of the combined traumatic events.

In community, Debbie Russell

----below is what I sent out last Friday to media and elected officials:


Ahmeed Bradley, a 37 year old African-American male, was pulled over by an APD officer for an unknown cause last night...tried to flee in his car...was stopped again by the officer and then Bradley fled on foot.

It was at this point that the officer must determine whether to pursue by foot.


APD's policy manual on foot pursuit policies says that the pursuit policy "recognizes that the use of force in response to resistance by law enforcement requires constant evaluation and that response to resistance is a serious responsibility." The foot chase policy (Policy 216) was changed to be more restrictive by Chief Acevedo in conjunction with the DOJ recommendations. The very first sentence recognizes the high risk of things going wrong on a foot chase: "Foot pursuits are inherently dangerous and require common sense, sound tactics, and heightened officer safety awareness." Later it says they can put the public and those involved at "significant risk."

The officer(s) "must continuously balance the objective of apprehending the subject with the risk and potential for injury to department personnel, the public, or the subject....Officers must be mindful that immediate apprehension of a subject is rarely more important than the safety of the public and Department personnel." (bold is my emphasis)

The policy says the chase can occur if the suspect is thought to have engaged in "criminal activity." The question here is, is fleeing, or "resisting arrest" - almost always a misdemeanor offense - "criminal activity"? Is this person an imminent threat to the public safety because of fleeing (or just a threat to the officer's ego)? "Mere flight by a subject who is not suspected of criminal activity shall not serve as the sole justification for engaging in a foot pursuit..."...WAS BRADLEY AN IMMINENT THREAT?

The policy goes on to say "an officer should continuously consider reasonable alternatives to pursuit..." and lists what those are....DID THE OFFICER CONSIDER ALTERNATIVES?

216.3 is "Foot Pursuit Considerations" asking officers to consider alternatives especially if any of a list of factors are in play, the first one being "when the officer is acting alone" and later, if the identity of the person is already known (such that a warrant can go out for a safer arrest). There are also considerable responsibilities in communications with dispatch/supervisors during this as well. ...DID THE OFFICER ID HIM BEFORE THE FOOT CHASE? DID HE COMMUNICATE WITH DISPATCH/SUPERVISOR?



Was this a moving violation? An expired inspection sticker? Weaving/suspected DWI? Or was Bradley seen to have engaged in criminal activity?

If it was a moving violation or sticker issue...he wasn't an imminent threat to the public the policy says, fleeing does not make one a threat.

If he was seen to have been weaving across lines...then yes, he's a threat...but not once he got on foot!

If he was seen to have engaged in other criminal activity--the threat must be assessed by that activity...and again, does the threat extend to him being on foot?


When we arrived, media was getting reports from APD that "there was a foot chase...a tasering...a punch to the officer...then the shooting." Some of then questioned, "a punch RIGHT after the tasering? can that BE if his muscles were just completely incapacitated?"...THEN the story became "the taser didn't work."

Also, at first, stories media were getting were that the officer suffered from a broken neck and other very serious injuries which insinuated that Bradley had been violent towards the officer - beyond a defense standpoint...which then turned into simply a "broken wrist." (Perhaps they need to add fence-hopping at the Academy IF they are going to violate their foot chase policies).

THEN, later, came the ever-popular, "struggle with the gun." We know from audio that didn't happen in the Sanders case (according to KeyPoint and the CRP and expert discovery in the civil suit). We know that didn't happen in either the Olsen/Brown case or the Schroeder/Rocha incident, which was an alleged "I thought he grabbed my Taser."

There's a little story about a boy who cried wolf...

ACEVEDO FIRED OLSEN FOR THE CHASE part....for the "violations leading up to the shooting." Acevedo then set about making his foot chase policy more restrictive to curb death and injuries.

NOW: after the Carter shooting...where it's apparently NO ONE'S FAULT Carter is dead....except if you ask Acevedo: he says "don't run from the police!" That's the lesson, he tells us.

So, you shouldn't use lethal force to prevent fleeing or stop fleeing...but you shouldn't flee either. But the more police are not held accountable for VIOLATING POLICY...the more people will flee in fear of being killed by someone who has immunity. Cause and effect....but THEY are paid to serve and protect, and are supposed to be held to a higher standard.


---Jesse Lee Owens (also for fleeing)

---Daniel Rocha (lie was "thought he grabbed taser" real story was to prevent him from fleeing)

---Nathaniel Sanders, II (no time for a no gun in hand-no fingerprints on gun...LQ simply freaked out)

---Devin Contreras (also attempting to flee -saw officer - turned to run away - shot, but lie was that he shot twice first--Contreras never fired)

---Byron Carter, Jr (for attempting to flee, as a passenger, since we know Rodriguez wasn't struck by THEIR car, and that Webb was not indicted, so the "officers life in danger" story doesn't hold water)

---Ahmeed Bradley

Only one in this list was holding a gun...and he didn't point it at the officer, much less shoot it like they initially claimed. He turned to run and was shot for it.

THE MOST IMPORTANT QUESTION TO ASK IS when Acevedo asserts that he knows something (because he believes his officer) but doesn't seem to have any evidence to back the officer's claim, is to ask why the public should withhold judgment if APD has already made up its mind?