Former Police Officer Geoffrey Freeman, who fatally shot a 17-year-old earlier this year, reached a settlement with the City of Austin Tuesday.
The settlement avoids an arbitration hearing that was set to begin December 5 in which Freeman was hoping to overturn his permanent suspension from the Austin Police Department.
In the agreement reached, Freeman will never work for APD, waives any claims against the City of Austin and receives $35,000.
"While I believe the City would prevail in the Civil Service Appeal Hearing, this settlement eliminates any possibility that Mr. Freeman could return to APD," Interim City Manager Elaine Hart said in a statement. "I believe this settlement is in the best interests of the community and the City.”
Freeman shot and killed an unarmed and naked David Joseph on February 8. Shots were fired, he told investigators, after Joseph charged him, igoring repeated commands to stop.
“Officer freeman did nothing wrong,” says C.L.E.A.T. Executive Director Charley Wilkison, adding, “he followed training that art acevedo gave him, he followed the law.”
A Travis County Grand Jury agreed clearing Freeman of any wrongdoing, saying his actions were justified. In March though, then Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo fired the twelve-year A.P.D. veteran. “We hold our officers accountable, especially when it relates to deadly force.,” said Acevedo of the firing.
Freeman immediately appealed.
“The Chief made his way around the office to disparage Officer Freeman, which he had to be ordered to stop by the City Manager,” says Austin Police Association President, Ken Casaday.
The case continued to play out in public. On November 21, Austin Mayor Steve Adler cited the Freeman case publicly while announcing a newly formed task force to address racism in the city.
“It's crazy they even tried to label him a racist,” Casaday says of Freeman, who is African America. Casaday adds, “There's no way he could have come back to the City of Austin to work.” And he maintains, “the city and our chief and our mayor, absolutely threw Officer Freeman under the bus.”
Immediately following Adler's comments, C.L.E.A.T., the largest Peace Officer union in Texas issued a subpoena against Adler claiming he was interfering with due process in freeman's case. Arbitration for Freeman's appeal was set to begin on Monday. As part of the settlement, in addition to the compensation, Freeman received a “general discharge.” As Casaday explains, “this settlement allows him to not only make a financial gain of what he lost but it also enables him to be a police officer anywhere else in the state of Texas.”
Both Casaday and Wilkison believe they would have won their appeal on Freeman’s behalf. Wilkison says, “in the end, the Mayor was scared. He blinked and didn't want to be subpoenaed and come in and testify on what he knew. On the direct involvement in this case. And that's what brought it to an end. It's a great victory for justice.”
Fox 7 reached out to the Joseph family through their attorney. He said they had no comment on the settlement at this time but may next week. The Joseph’s civil suit against the city and Freeman is still making its way through the legal system.