Saturday, January 30, 2021
JUSTICE FOR ALEX
YOUNG FATHER KILLED
BY AUSTIN, TX POLICE
PRESS CONFERENCE & FAMILY TESTIMONY
The press conference was pre-recorded at 10:00 AM and then livestreamed at 1pm (delayed from noon) with a live chat. The event included several community organizers and select members of the press.
The event was hosted by LULAC, District 12.
Standing with Alex’s family, community organizers are calling for full transparency, accountability and justice for the family and for the community impacted by this horrific incident.
“As a community, as individuals, as small local businesses, we depend on and trust our police. We have to--they are there to protect us. When police kill us, our trust, our sense of safety is broken.” -- Frank Ortega, District Director, LULAC District 12
The family and organizers want all body cam video and 911 recordings associated with the case to be released, and the case investigated as a murder. We also support the recommendations from the Office of Police Oversight.
Alex Gonzales was Killed By Police
Alex was driving with his girlfriend and their 2-month-old baby boy when he was chased and shot at (while driving) by a plainclothes police officer. Alex’s car pulled over. His girlfriend had been shot, and his face was bleeding. According to witnesses, the police officer left the scene and returned minutes later.
Bystander video shows the plainclothes officer acknowledging over the phone that a woman, who is crying “My baby, my baby,” is lying on the ground, and that Alex had been shot. Two more officers arrive, telling the plainclothes officer to get back. Alex was then killed only 72 seconds after police arrived on the scene.
This is the second police killing in the East Riverside area in less than a year. Last April, police killed Mike Ramos outside a nearby apartment complex. He was unarmed.
Several inconsistencies in the storyline must be resolved.
This encounter was initiated by Officer Gutierrez while out of uniform and in his personal vehicle. No shots were fired by Alex.
Although body cam video and 911 calls have not yet been released, it is clear from bystander video that the storylines from the officer (as described by Chief Manley on the night of the incident) and what Chief Manley reported to the AG are inconsistent. When on the radio or 911 and before the other cars arrive, the plainclothes officer can be heard saying that the driver is standing up and that he doesn’t know whether or not the driver has a gun. He can then be heard saying, “Hey put your gun down man. It’s the po-lice!” and “Don’t reach in your pocket.” Then, after the other on-duty officers arrive, he tells them, twice, that there is a gun in the front seat. Still, Manley’s briefing indicates that the body cam video shows Alex with his hands up before he walks around to the passenger side of the vehicle.
This all begs a few questions: 1) If the plainclothes officer knew the gun was in the front seat, why, in a continuous video, did he first say he did not know whether or not Alex had a gun, then say “put your gun down,” followed by telling officers there is a gun in the front seat?; 2) If Alex had his hands up and then moved around the car to check on his girlfriend, why did they think he had a gun in hand, especially when they were just told it was in the front seat?; 3) Given that the baby’s cries were audible, and seeing that Alex had no gun, why wouldn’t the officers assume that he was checking on his baby in the back seat, when the woman on the ground was wailing, “my baby, my baby?” This sequence is especially troubling, considering reports that witnesses saw the plainclothes officer driving away from the scene after shooting at Alex’s moving vehicle (which is against police policy), then drive back a few minutes later, and only then make the call to 911 recorded by bystanders.
Officer Gutierrez claims that Alex was “following” him and “flashed a gun” at him. Because the officer was not in uniform, no bodycam footage exists to confirm any aspect of his story until the other officers arrive, at which point we should have body cam footage. Alex’s family asserts that it is impossible that Alex would have “flashed a gun” while driving with his girlfriend and his baby in the car, especially given that he later risked his life to check on the baby. APD claims that they found a gun in the area, but they have not released bodycam or dashcam footage of the killing.
Alex’s Family Wants Accountability, Transparency, and Justice
According to reports, the plainclothes officer that initiated Alex Gonzales’s killing is on paid administrative leave, and the city has not announced plans to fire him or prosecute him.
The plainclothes officer should not have been firing at a moving vehicle, nor using his weapon. APD officers are trained not to intervene in situations if at all possible when off-duty. What’s more, some witnesses have reported seeing the officer enraged.
Alex’s family has filed a complaint with the Office of Police Oversight and is asking for the DA to press charges against the officer involved. They are asking Chief Manley to move quickly to inform the community whether or not he will institute any administrative discipline including whether to indefinitely suspend Gutierrez.
Standing With Alex’s Family, Community Organizers Want the Same
All of this is against a background of known systemic racism, police misconduct, and high rates of unarmed killings and failures to de-escalate. Austin Police Department does not have a good track record when it comes to officer-involved shootings.
The facts about people killed by police paint a clear picture. Of people killed by APD, when armed, 41% are people of color. Unarmed, that percentage rises to 60%. What’s more, overall, 41% of people killed by police had a known mental illness (Representing 33% of white people killed, and 50% of people of color killed by police.)
MEASURE will be releasing a report in the coming week that will highlight the cost of police misconduct.
According to the report’s lead author, Paulette Blanc, the cost is both community-wide and financial. “We can tally deaths, track settlements paid, and examine city budgets, but we cannot put a value on community suffering or distrust.” And there is a financial cost as well. According to the report, between 2012 and 2018, the city of Austin reached settlement amounts that totaled $8 million as a result of police misconduct. “But for every $1 allocated to payouts, there are $3 in trial litigation,” Paulette clarifies. Furthermore, misconduct from police officers that results in complaints poses additional costs to taxpayers. When looking at the internal complaints, many of these violations could have been prevented. According to the report, 20% were conducted by officers with previous violations.
But there has been little transparency or accountability regarding previous violations. Tatum Law conducted an independent investigation into Anonymous Complaints Alleging Use of Racist Language in the Austin Police Department and submitted a report on April 17, 2020, to the City Manager. In the report, not only did the investigator observe a hostile environment for employees who would otherwise call out racist behavior, but also noted potentially obstructive behavior on the part of APD, including the fact that disciplinary records had not been kept well.
Furthermore, after a months-long review of APD training videos by an independent council and citizen review board, the resulting report found that APD training videos perpetuated stereotypes, over-represented people of color as criminals, emphasized an “us vs. them” or “warrior” approach. Collectively, interactions in videos also showed more empathy toward white men, and less toward people of color, and a tendency to sensationalize rather than humanize.
This is also on the tails of a report of increased racial profiling in APD police stops. According to the report:
“Between 2015 and 2019, racial disparity persisted and, in many cases, grew worse. • Data from 2019 reveals that racial disparity in motor vehicle stops is still a pervasive problem, with Black/African Americans being the most overrepresented of all racial/ethnic groups in Austin.
• Black/African Americans made up approximately 8% of Austin’s voting-age population but experienced 14% of motor vehicle stops, 25% of stops resulting in searches, and 25% of stops resulting in arrests. • In 2019, Black/African Americans and Hispanic/Latinos were overrepresented in motor vehicle stops by 6% and 2%, respectively, while White/Caucasians were underrepresented by 6%, and Asians were underrepresented by 3%.”