AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Austin Police Department released video related to an east Austin hostage situation in February that left the suspect dead after two police officers fired at him.
Officers were able to safely remove the hostages, a woman and a 10-year-old boy, from the home on the night of Feb. 10. APD said the situation began when Jordan Walton crashed a car into a house on the 2900 block of Rogge Lane, near Manor Road, and then broke into the woman’s home nearby. Police say Walton fired at officers who tried to enter and later attempted to use the boy as a shield.
Officer Jeffrey Hutchison, who’s worked at APD for 8 years, and Officer Ryan Nichols, who’s been there 13 years, were initially placed on paid administrative leave per department policy. APD said in early June both had been returned to full duty.
WARNING: This video contains graphic content and profanity. Viewer discretion is advised.
APD is supposed to release these “Critical Incident Community Briefing” videos for situations like there where officers fire their guns, in an effort to increase transparency and trust with the community. Before it’s released to the public, the next of kin, attorneys, officers involved and city officials will watch it.
Under its policy, the video should be released 60 days after the incident. That did not happen here — the hostage situation and shooting happened Feb. 10, which would have put 60 days in mid-April. APD previously told KXAN the winter storm pushed the process back, and it estimated it would have it ready May 1. In early May, it said it would be pushed back again to June 4.
On June 9, APD sent out a release explaining “production and stakeholder feedback delays” caused it to push back the release of this video and one related to an April 9 shooting. It gave a new deadline for the February case video release as June 25, which it will meet.
Only one such incident has been released on time since APD’s policy went into effect last year.
“I think we underestimated how long it would take, particularly when you have so many departments working on it,” said Office of Police Oversight Director Farah Muscadin.
Muscadin said she was the one who originally proposed being more transparent with video release. She said the city compromised by following a release policy modeled after the Los Angeles Police Department’s, which educates people on the circumstances surrounding the video being released.
“What has been challenging is the putting together the video in a way that explains it and provides context in a very fair and impartial perspective, and that just fundamentally takes a lot of time,” Muscadin said.
Muscadin said in addition to her office, APD, the district attorney’s office and the city’s tech and communications offices must be involved in the process.
Muscadin said she’s hopeful Austin will soon move to a policy more like Houston’s new critical incident video release policy.
Houston’s policy now requires police to release body camera footage from officers who use their weapons in critical incidents within a maximum of 30 days.
“Our goal is to release the videos as quickly as we can,” said Houston Police Chief Troy Finner at the beginning of the month, when the department released video of its first critical incident since the policy change.
All involved officers’ raw, unedited body camera footage clips from the incident were uploaded online for the public, as well as an informational video that didn’t require as much production and could be put out more quickly.
KXAN also compared other cities’ policies.
Dallas has a quick turn around, requiring footage to be released within 72 hours of a critical incident.
The San Antonio Police Department changed its policy at the end of last year. It now requires footage from critical incidents to be released within 60 days.
Author: Kate Winkle
This post originally appeared on KXAN Austin