Carter lawsuit verdict spurs strong reactions - MyFoxAustin.com | KTBC Fox 7 | News, Weather, Sports

Carter lawsuit verdict spurs strong reactions

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After a jury ruled Tuesday an Austin Police officer did not use excessive force when he killed Byron Carter in 2011, Family members, community leaders, and the Austin Police Department all shared strong reactions.

The family of Byron Carter was seeking $1.5 million in damages. However, a federal jury in Austin said the officer who shot him, Nathan Wagner, did not use excessive force.

Carter's grandmother said that the verdict should be a warning to all black men. Carter's family has said from the beginning of the case that the 20-year-old was racially profiled.

Meanwhile, Officer Wagner feels vindicated and is ready to continue his career.

The jury's decision was written all over the face of Byron Carter Junior's mother. She cried and had to have help from family when leaving the federal courthouse Tuesday.

"As long as you're black you're wrong," said Carter's grandmother. "It was very political. It was very racial. It was not fair. It was just no justice at all."

"No matter what they jury said today in our mind his death was unjustifiable," said family supporter Anthony Walker.

NAACP chapter President Nelson Linder vowed to change the penal code that he says gives officers too much freedom when it comes to self-defense.

"This is about an unjust antiquated system that gives police officers too much power," Linder. "We've got to stop and take away some of the police power otherwise these deadly trends will continue."

Officer Wagner and his partner Jeffrey Rodriguez were conducting an operation looking for car thieves the night of May 30th, 2011 when they saw Carter and his friend Lee Webb. By the time officers caught up to them, both were seated in a car.

Webb, police say, punched the gas and hit Officer Rodriguez in the shin. Wagner, who says he was in fear of his life and his partner's, fired five rounds into the car. Four hit Carter, killing him.

Wagner and Rodriguez appeared alongside their attorney Robert Icenhauer-Ramirez as he expressed his gratitude for the jury's decision.

"It was clear from the evidence, including the driver, he drove directly at these officers, accelerated his car and struck Officer Rodriguez that was clear and once that's clear Officer Wagner was put in position to use deadly force," Icenhauer-Ramirez said.

Wagner, who remains on staff at APD, only spoke when asked if he planned to continue his career in law enforcement.

"Absolutely," Wagner said.

The group Peaceful Streets won't make that easy for him. Over the weekend they vowed to follow him until he is fired from the department. Austin Police Association President Wayne Vincent said he takes the threat very seriously.

"I think it's seriously time we look at filing charges," Vincent said. "This is harassment at the highest level and nobody should have to tolerate that."

The department is expected to address the issue on Wednesday.

APD released a statement today that says," APD believes that there is no winner when an officer is required to use deadly force. Any loss of life is tragic, and our deepest condolences go to the family of Byron Carter, Jr. No officer ever wants to be in the position of having to take the life of another. The facts of this case confirmed that officers Wagner and Rodriguez were placed in a life-threatening situation that required the use of deadly force."

The APD statements ends with, "In the interest of full transparency, we will be reviewing what additional information can be released regarding the investigation now that these proceedings are complete."

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