The Austin police officer who shot at a man during a routine traffic stop has been fired from the force.
Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo said at a press conference Friday afternoon that Officer Justin Boehm was suspended indefinitely following his disciplinary review hearing hours earlier.
The chief said at the hearing it was unanimously decided that Boehm, a five-year veteran of the force, discharged his weapon during a May 8 traffic stop in a manner that was “objectively unreasonable.”
“As always we take the use of deadly force, the discharge of a firearm, very seriously in this city and this department,” Acevedo said. “It is important for this community to know that our department holds our officers to a standard that is higher than what the law requires of them.”
Officer Boehm pulled over 53-year-old James Barton after Barton ran a red light at the intersection of Airport Boulevard and 12th Street. Once they were stopped, Boehm saw Barton reach to the right in his vehicle which “made him cautious of the driver,” according to the Travis County District Attorney’s Office.
Barton then exited his vehicle after Boehm asked him to remain seated. As Barton continued to walk towards Boehm, he reached both hands in his waistband area and pulled out a black object, which Boehm believed to be a weapon.
That’s when he fired one shot at Barton and missed. The black object was later determined to be Barton’s wallet. Barton was taken to the hospital after the shooting where he was treated for an anxiety attack.
In a report filed by Police Monitor Margo Fraser, indicates a review of the cruiser camera footage shows Barton did not make any aggressive movements and his wallet did not look like a weapon. The officer’s first command to stop may not have been loud enough for Barton to hear, the report states, and Barton stopped on the second command. Boehm fired before a third command was offered.
It took just three second between Barton exiting his car and Boehm firing his weapon, according to the report. Boehm said he intended to shoot Barton when he fired his weapon, though the bullet did not hit him and the bullet was never recovered.
Fraser wrote that it was “extremely concerning that Officer Boehm conducted a traffic stop in the morning hours where there was more than adequate daylight and appeared to have not been able to rely on reason and training to critically assess the situation. Instead, he formulated in his mind a threat based on otherwise explainable behavior and theorized that he had no option but the use of deadly force to protect himself.”
In reality, Fraser wrote, Boehm used unjustified force that endangered the public and he does not have the decision making ability to assess tense situations. She recommended that Boehm be indefinitely suspended.
A citizen’s review panel also found Boehm’s actions were unjustified and agreed with an indefinite suspension for the officer.
Last week, the DA's office announced that Boehm would not face any criminal charges.
The Texas Civil Rights Project is suing the city on Barton's behalf seeking $12,000 in medical bills.
Acevedo reiterated that it was important for the Austin community to understand his officers are held to a high standard when it comes to deadly force.
“To say that we don’t hold anyone accountable is simply not true,” the chief said.
Boehm has the right to appeal his termination.