Residents hope for more action regarding homeless man with chainsaw

On Wednesday, FOX 7 brought you the story of neighbors who are concerned because they say a homeless man has been cutting down trees, sometimes with a chainsaw. 

This is the Westgate and Stassney Lane area in South Austin.

The neighborhood association president says this has been going on for a couple of months, and she's working with multiple city departments to try to find a solution.

"He uses his either machete, chain saw, pole saw, and cuts down trees," Frankie Hefley, president of the Cherry Creek Central Neighborhood Association, said. "There's a man with obvious, you know, issues, and he's got a chainsaw in the middle of the afternoon."

Hefley has personally seen him about a dozen times. "I only got in close proximity with him one time, and I was very afraid," she said. "He was actually threatening us with his machete."

Hefley says Austin Police have come out multiple times. She says they used to not come out until they brought the issue to the city's attention.

"Once we escalated it to them, we really have seen improvement. APD comes, I would say within five minutes, if that. They really have done a good job, but I think we need people at the court level to take action. We need people to come forward with mental health assistance," she said.

Thursday morning, officers could be seen talking to the man.

"APD was here this morning, made contact with him, asked him to leave the premises. Just this afternoon probably thirty minutes ago, I was going down Jones road, and he was again using a pole saw to cut down trees," Hefley said.

Court records show Rami Zawaideh has been charged with criminal trespassing five times. The County Attorney rejected prosecuting him three times. One case is pending, and another is active.

"If he gets picked up, my experience has been that he is back on the street, I'm going to say, three to five days max," Hefley said.

On Wednesday night, a FOX 7 crew had to leave the area because they saw someone with a light chopping trees in the Greenbelt behind them.

"What is the next step? What can we do to ensure safety? I don't want to get to a situation where we have to wait until he actually hurts somebody," Hefley said. "It's really awful, because we have a small little close-knit neighborhood, and lots of children, and we want them to come out and enjoy this beautiful green space, this beautiful garden, and we're not able to at this point without feeling, how can we protect ourselves if we come into some kind of situation."

The Travis County Attorney's Office sent the following statement:

"We are not able to comment on matters that are pending before our courts. We are however very aware of the challenges that have long existed at the intersections of public safety, housing, homelessness, and mental illness. Our office will continue working with our neighbors and stakeholders to find long term solutions that keep our community safe while also helping individuals get the services they need."