AUSTIN, Texas - Still, no arrests have been made in Austin’s 82nd homicide of the year Monday night. 19-year-old Joel Camarillo was killed in one of two shootings along South Congress Ave. Now, some officers say there just isn’t adequate staffing to handle the surge in violence.
"We were in the house eating, getting ready to eat, and we got texts and phone calls talking about is everything okay. We walk outside, we see EMS’s, police," said Craig Crayton, who lives in the SoCo Park Apartments.
Police were called there just before 9 PM Monday after a caller reported Camarillo had been shot and was being put in a white sedan. When officers arrived, they tracked down the car and detained the driver, and found Camarillo inside with gunshot wounds. He was taken to the hospital where he died a short time later.
The driver of the white sedan was not arrested and not a suspect, according to police.
"People need to stop trying to take young people’s lives," said Crayton. "Makes me just want to stay inside and stay away from people."
Meanwhile, a man and woman were found shot in another car more than a mile north, near Stassney Lane. They are being treated for their injuries, but are expected to be okay.
Police say the two shootings are connected, and admit it’s part of a troubling trend. "We’re obviously experiencing a bit more violence, so we want everyone to be aware of your surroundings," said Officer Alexandra Parker with the Austin Police Department.
Crayton fears the pandemic is fueling the violence. "People are just acting strange over the pandemic. I think the pandemic is getting into a lot of people’s heads and making them do crazy things, like last night," said Crayton.
But Austin Police Association President Ken Casaday says that’s only part of the picture. "Is COVID an issue? Yes. Is housing an issue? Yes. But also I think the big issue is not prosecuting violent offenders and drug dealers in the city of Austin," said Casaday.
Some officers say bare-bones staffing means cops aren’t able to prevent violence before it happens. "We need additional officers, but we are doing the best we can with the resources that we have," said Parker.
"We’re answering 911 calls, but we’re not going out and being proactive with these drug dealers," said Casaday. While Prop A fell short at the ballot box, Casaday says it started an important conversation about the future of public safety.
"People talking about the issue, either for it or against it. Now the city council knows, they need to fund the department, they need to get these academy classes through," said Casaday. "We need a bigger recruiting budget. We need to be scouring the United States for officers.
Camarillo’s family has set up a GoFundMe to help pay for funeral expenses.
If you have any information on Monday night’s shootings, you’re urged to call the APD Homicide Tipline at (512) 974-TIPS or Crime Stoppers at (512) 472-TIPS. Police are offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to an arrest.