Black Family Sues Austin for Death by Cop | Courthouse News Service
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Black Family Sues Austin for Death by Cop

AUSTIN (CN) - An Austin policeman shot a young black man to death and wounded another "simply because they were young, African-American males in a gentrified part of downtown Austin" - and it's not the first time around for the Austin police, the dead man's family says.

The family of the late Byron Carter Jr. sued Austin and its police Officer Nathan Wagner in Federal Court.

The family says Austin police Officers Nathan Wagner and Jeffery Rodriguez followed Carter and his friend to their car after the young men left a social function in downtown Austin.

Rodriguez is not named as a defendant.

"Byron Carter Jr. and his friend had not committed any criminal acts and were not wanted for anything whatsoever. Byron Carter Jr. and his friend were being followed by APD officers simply because they were young, African-American males in a gentrified part of downtown Austin" according to the complaint.

As Carter's friend pulled his car away from the curb, the officers ran up to it from a dimly lit area with guns drawn, according to the complaint.

"Defendant Wagner and Officer Rodriguez did not identify themselves as police officers. Instead, without any warning whatsoever, Officer Wagner opened fire into the car. Defendant Wagner repeatedly shot Byron Carter Jr. in the head and the body. As a result, Byron Carter Jr. died," Carter's family says.

Wagner also shot Carter's friend several times in the body, but he survived, the family says.

"The APD subsequently arrested the friend and charged him with assault on a police officer and related crimes. However, on September 29, 2011 a Travis County jury no-billed the friend and concluded he did not commit any crimes whatsoever on the night in question," according to the complaint.

Carter's parents say Wagner shot their son to death while he "was an unarmed passenger in a car and was doing absolutely nothing wrong."

They add: "The Austin Police Department has had several unjustified shootings against African-American males in recent years, including those against Nathaniel Sanders II, Kevin Brown and Jesse Lee Owens.

"The number of unjustified shootings against African-American males in Austin is a systemic problem and far and way exceeds the number of shootings in other U.S. cities of comparable size and demographic makeup.

"Notwithstanding these alarming statistics, the City of Austin still has not addressed this systemic problem and as a result, young men like Byron Carter Jr. continue to die at the hands of APD."

Carter's mother, father and the mother of his 1-year-old child seek damages for wrongful death, excessive force, and civil rights violations, including "employing deadly force disproportionately against minorities."

The family is represented by Adam Loewy, with Barry & Loewy.

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