Texas officer fired for shooting during pursuit

By Claire Osborn
The Austin American-Statesman

AUSTIN, Texas Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo has fired police officer Wayne Williamson, an Iraq war veteran, for inappropriate use of deadly force. This is the first time the new chief has fired an officer.

Acevedo is expected to decide in the next several weeks whether another officer will be disciplined for fatally shooting a man outside an East Austin club in June.

Williamson fired shots March 14 while chasing a burglary suspect outside a shopping center near U.S. 183 and Manor Road. The shots did not hit anyone, but one bullet struck a van with two children inside, police said.

Williamson, who has been with the Austin Police Department for nine years, finished a 10-month Army tour in Iraq last year. Williamson and his lawyer have said that Williamson's experience in a war zone probably blurred his split-second judgment and affected his decision to shoot.

Acevedo, who became police chief in July, fired Williamson after a disciplinary review board hearing Saturday, but the information wasn't released to the public until Monday.

Acevedo said the disciplinary review board reached the same conclusion as the city's citizens review board and police monitor: that Williamson should be fired.

"The bottom line is that the use of deadly force was determined to be unjustified," Acevedo said Monday. "The inappropriate use of deadly force cannot and will not be tolerated."

Williamson's attorney, Tom Stribling, said Williamson would appeal the decision to an arbitrator. Stribling declined to comment further.

According to a disciplinary memo, Williamson - who had received a report that a man with a knife was trying to break into a home - yelled at the suspect and ordered him to stop as the man ran away from him and officer Chris Davis on a footbridge over U.S. 183. Officers later found a knife near the home on Purple Sage Drive.

When the suspect stopped, Williamson shot at him even though he didn't see a weapon in the man's hand, the memo said. The suspect then ran into a parking lot near an H-E-B grocery store, where Williamson shot at him two more times, the memo said.

"Officer Williamson's reckless disregard for the safety of Officer Davis (Davis was in the line of fire when the third round was fired) could have had tragic results," the memo said.

Some witnesses were more afraid of Williamson firing his gun than they were of the suspect, "who they described as running while trying to hold his shorts up with his hands," the memo said.

Officers used pepper spray to subdue the suspect, identified as LaCharles Kenyon Williams, 27.

Acevedo's next major disciplinary decision involves Sgt. Michael Olsen, who shot Kevin Brown twice in the back, killing him, outside Chester's Club on East 12th Street in June. Olsen had responded to a report of a man with a gun, and Brown fled.

Olsen later told investigators that he fired when he saw Brown reach toward his waistband as if retrieving a weapon; officers found a gun about 30 feet from Brown's body. A Travis County grand jury declined to indict Olsen on Aug. 9 .

Copyright 2007 Austin American-Statesman

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