Police shooting of unarmed Texas teen settled for $3.25 million
The Austin City Council authorized the settlement on Thursday minutes after Mayor Steve Adler announced the sum, the Austin American-Statesman reported.
The settlement stems from a February 8, 2016, encounter during which Officer Geoffrey Freeman, also a black male, fired twice at a nude, unarmed Joseph, 17, in response to calls that a man was harassing residents in a North Austin neighborhood.
Freeman had said he shot at Joseph when the teen charged at him, and that he feared Joseph could overpower him. The former officer became the first member of the department to be fired over a fatal shooting in eight years, the Statesman previously reported.
The use of lethal force by Freeman was found by the Austin Police Department to be unjustified. He was dismissed from the department a month after the fatal shooting. A disciplinary memo released in March 2016 said that Freeman also violated department policies governing response to resistance, people who indicate erratic substance-based behavior and neglect of duty, the Statesman reported.
Police have not offered an explanation as to why Joseph was nude at the time of his encounter with Freeman. The department has said Joseph may have been suffering a mental health crisis at the time.
An official autopsy found Joseph had Xanax and marijuana in his system at the time of the shooting, but not PCP, which some had speculated was the case based on Joseph's behavior, according to March report by the Statesman.
The settlement, the largest ever in Austin as a result of lethal force used by the city's police department, is the latest in multimillion dollar payouts by major US cities following controversial, high-profile shootings – mostly of young black men – by their police officers.
Earlier this month, Los Angeles agreed to pay $1.5 million to the family of Ezell Ford, an unarmed black man killed by police in 2014 days after Michael Brown was killed by police in Ferguson, Missouri.
The Ford payout fell short of several others, including the $6 million settlement reached last year between Cleveland and the family of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, as well as the $4 million paid in 2015 by New York City to the family of Ramarley Graham, an unarmed 18-year old who was followed into his home by police and fatally shot.