Police: Man shot by Austin officer had BB gun




Posted on March 21, 2014 at 9:46 AM

AUSTIN, Texas -- Police have determined the weapon held by a man injured in a northeast Austin officer-involved shooting on Tuesday was a pellet or BB gun.

Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo said the incident occurred just before 12:30 p.m. Tuesday when police responded to a domestic disturbance involving 23-year-old Jawhari Smith and his girlfriend at an apartment complex on Berkman Drive near Wheless Lane.

Police Sergeant Gregg White says he saw Smith holding what he thought was semi-automatic pistol. Smith told him it was a BB gun, and the sergeant ordered him to drop the weapon.

When Smith didn't comply after several requests, the sergeant fired three shots, hitting Smith once, according to police. He was taken to University Medical Center Brackenridge with injuries to his face and right shoulder. He was released from police custody TuA Umarex model XBG pellet/BB pistol. (not the actual weapon from the incident)esday evening.

Police later determined that the weapon was a Umarex model XBG pellet/BB pistol.

"If it looks like a gun, it's a gun. It's a threat. It's just poor judgment to approach a police officer with a weapon or something that looks like a weapon," said Austin Police Association president Wayne Vincent.

Vincent said it's too soon to jump to conclusions.

"I know this officer personally and he is just like most of the other officers. There is no way he would use deadly force unless he absolutely thought it was necessary," Vincent said.

Vincent says the facts will reveal what happened in time.

"If a police officer is out on a disturbance, he has no idea what he's dealing with and he's approached by someone with a weapon, it doesn't matter what race or gender it is. That is a threat and that police officer is going to react to that threat," he said. "I think at the end of the day you're going to find out that's what happened here."

White has been with APD for 17 years. Acevedo says White will be placed on administrative leave with pay while the shooting is under investigation.

Acevedo also said the department will review the shooting.

"We will be assessing whether or not the use of deadly force was appropriate under the circumstance of this call here today," Acevedo said.

Smith's family members were at the scene, demanding explanations from officers. They want police to tell them why this happened.

"What is the point of being trained to not use deadly force?" said Smith's cousin, Traeshina Williams. "We constantly see this happening over and over again."

Acevedo said people outside the department will also review the shooting. They'll also look into the 911 call.

Family members said Smith's girlfriend caused the trouble. Police are questioning her and say they have responded here for the same two people before.

Family members held up signs in protest outside of UMC Brackenridge hospital Tuesday night. They weren't allowed to see Smith.

"I really do want to see him. Most importantly, I wanted him to see his son so anything, if anything happened he would be able to know that we were here," said Caleana Johnson, Smith's former girlfriend and the mother of his child.

Johnson said she talked to Smith on the phone Monday night and drove in from Houston as soon as she heard the news. 

"I want people to know Jawhari is a good person and he didn't deserve this," Johnson said.

Family members questioned the story from police.

"Anyone can vouch that he is a very kind family man. He would not carry a gun," Johnson said.

According to police stats, there have been at least 21 calls to the apartment complex for various reasons this year alone. This is the second police-involved shooting in Austin this year.

Nearby Harris Elementary was "sheltering in place" due to the shooting. Acevedo says the school was never in any danger, but caution was being taken.