The family of a young Black man shot in May by a white police officer is suing the city of Austin in federal court for the death of their loved one.
The family says that Austin police officers Nathan Wagner and Jeffery Rodriguez followed Byron Carter Jr. and a friend to their car after they left a social function in downtown Austin. In the court documents, the family claims that the officer shot Carter to death and wounded his friend "simply because they were young, African-American males in a gentrified part of downtown Austin."
"My clients deserve to know why their son was killed, and we are confident this lawsuit will provide answers," the Carter family's attorney, Adam Loewy, said Tuesday.
According to the complaint, as Carter’s friend pulled his car away from a curb, the officers ran up to it from a dimly lit area with guns drawn. Reportedly, Wagner and Rodriguez did not identify themselves as police officers and opened fire into the car.
The police department’s story differs, however. Police Chief Art Acevedo said at the time that on May 30, the day of the shooting, the officers were patrolling downtown looking for car thieves when they saw two people walking and acting suspiciously.
Allegedly the officers lost sight of the pair, and eventually walked up to a red car parked in front of an apartment building. They could not initially see in the car and they claim that the car lunged toward the officers, striking Rodriguez.
In response, Wagner fired several shots striking and killing Carter, 20, and wounding a 16-year-old who was driving the car, police said. The unidentified teen was charged with assault on a police officer, but in September a grand jury completed its review of the incident and declined to indict the teen, an action the family’s lawyer calls “big” in the case.
The lawsuit claims that Carter and his friend had not committed any current or previous criminal acts, nor were they “wanted.”
The complaint also charges that the Austin Police Department has had several unjustified shootings against African-Americans in recent years, including those against Nathaniel Sanders II, Kevin Brown and Jesse Lee Owens, and that the department has not addressed the systematic problem.
Carter’s mother and father, as well as the mother of his 1-year-old child, are jointly seeking damages for wrongful death, excessive force and civil rights violations, including "employing deadly force disproportionately against minorities."
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(Photo: Texas Law Enforcement)