AUSTIN, Texas - An Austin police officer has been suspended for using his taser on a man who was passively resisting his commands.
Officer Thomas Childress has been suspended for sixty days, effective August 29 and continuing through October 27.
According to a memo from APD Chief Brian Manley, the suspension stemmed from an incident in Northwest Austin in March. Childress had responded to a disturbance call involving a man walking in the street with a skateboard and threatening to hit cars near an H-E-B on Wood Hollow Drive. The caller said the man was holding a sign with anti-Semitic sentiments while trying to attack vehicles.
An administrative investigation in the incident was initiated to determine if any violation of department policy, civil service rules, or state law had been committed. During the investigation, Internal Affairs interviewed witnesses, including Childress, and reviewed footage from Childress's body-worn camera.
The footage, according to the memo, captured all of Childress's interactions with the man, who had repeatedly asked Childress why he was being stopped and detained. Childress said he was investigating a crime and the man repeatedly asked what crime he was alleged to have committed. He also stated many times: "This is an illegal arrest."
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Another officer on-scene told the man he also needed to comply for "officer safety" and the man subsequently dropped his sign and was then instructed to put his skateboard down, which he did immediately, says the memo. Officer Childress then instructed the man to get on the ground and put his hands behind his back, but the man did not initially comply, continuing to say Childress's actions were "illegal" and he repeatedly asked, "What did I do?" and "What am I being detained for?", and "This is an illegal arrest."
The other on-scene officer also instructed the man to turn around and put his hands behind his back. He still did not comply, says the memo.
Officer Childress then stated: "This is your last chance, get down on the ground. Get down on the ground right now." The man sat down on the ground but refused to lay on his stomach, according to the memo. The man instead put his hands on his head and continued to ask for a supervisor.
After confirming with the man that he would not comply with further orders, Officer Childress stated, "Taser, Taser, Taser," and deployed his taser on the man who was then placed in handcuffs, says the memo. EMS arrived to evaluate him, but he refused treatment.
In an interview with IA in July, the memo says Childress said the man was passively resisting at the moment he deployed his taser. IA asked him what he was thinking when the subject was not complying and he stated, "I'm thinkin'- with how he was acting and how he is ramped up and agitated that if I were to get any closer, it was going to become physical."
When asked what made him decide to use the taser, he said: "At that point, I decided to use the taser to avoid any other physical confrontation and being so close to the skateboard and the other sign closer to cars, that that would be the best way to go about detaining the subject in handcuffs."
When asked if he was concerned for his safety, he said: "I was only because I did not want to get close to a skateboard, close to any sign. I didn't want to have a physical struggle with this person."
The memo says that Childress admitted in the interview that he had violated APD's taser policy, which prohibits the use of tasers on passively-resisting subjects. Childress also violated the department's policy concerning the de-escalation of potential force encounters, says Manley's memo.
In addition to the temporary suspension, Childress will be required to attend training specified by his chain of command and agree to a one-year probationary period after serving his suspension. If he commits the same or a similar act of misconduct during the probationary period, the memo says he will be indefinitely suspended without appeal.