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In the last week, four people have been killed in Austin, bringing the total number of homicides in 2021 to 16—five more than at this time last year and triple the number that had occurred at this time in 2019, according to Austin Police Department reports.
This month alone, the following homicides and violent crimes have occurred:
- March 22- An unidentified man was killed and an unidentified woman was hospitalized with a gunshot wound after a shooting Monday afternoon at a motel in Northwest Austin. Preliminary interviews with witnesses and the injured victim suggest there were two suspects involved, according to APD.
- March 21- Christopher Ray Martinez, 40, was shot to death in the parking lot of a pawn shop on East Riverside Drive early Sunday morning. "The motive for this shooting appears to be anger and jealousy over a woman in whom both men had a romantic interest," according to APD.
- March 18- An unidentified Hispanic male was shot to death early Thursday morning in North Austin after an argument with the suspect, who remains at large.
- March 17- APD responded to a shooting at Tellers Bar on Trinity Street early Wednesday morning. Surveillance video shows a suspect shooting into a parked vehicle; a bar employee who was asleep inside was struck and transported to an area hospital with non-life threatening injuries.
- March 14- Jorian Donte Hardeway, 24, was shot at Club Swing on East Seventh Street early in the morning and pronounced dead after being transported to a local hospital. Homicide detectives have not yet identified a possible suspect, and the motive remains unknown.
- March 1- Two food trucks in North Austin were robbed at gunpoint by the same suspect early in the morning while employees were closing up for the night.
This string of homicides has raised concerns that the increase in violent crimes seen in 2020 is not an outlier but a lasting trend. APD Lt. Jeff Greenwalt attributed the uptick to a number of different factors, including an increasing number of people being released from jail early as a result of the pandemic, wider use of personal recognizance bonds and the ongoing reimagining public safety process, which has included police budget cuts.
"The murders sometimes come in on a daily basis," he told Austonia. "Hopefully it's a short-lived experience that we're going through, but when you look at the grand scheme of the direction of the criminal justice system it seems like this might be something that's here to stay until we make a correction."
The Austin murder rate hit at least a 10-year high late last year and has reached levels not seen since the mid-1990s. In November, Greenwalt said it was too early to tell whether the City Council's decision to cut the police budget was a contributing factor. But he feels differently now, saying that the cuts have impacted the number of officers on patrol, the availability of specialized support units and goodwill in the community. "It shouldn't surprise people that, if you take away resources from the police, crime goes up," he said.
Overall, the violent crimes are due to typical causes, Greenwalt said, citing domestic violence, robberies and disturbances among friends and acquaintances. But their increasing frequency is something the department is looking at very closely. "It's going to be really interesting to see how 2021 turns out because 2020 was such an anomaly that we were wondering if it was just going to be one of those weird, unusually high years or if it was the beginning of a new trend," he said.
Criminal justice reform advocates and local elected officials point out that, despite this uptick, Austin's violent crime rate remains relatively low for a city of its size; in addition, the increase both predates the council's decision to cut police funding and is mirrored in other cities where police spending has remained steady.
It may be too early to tell whether budget cuts and ongoing criminal justice reforms have had any statistical impact on the local violent crime rate, Greenwalt said. But anecdotally he feels the two are connected. "We don't have A) the people or B) the budget to go out and do some of the things we used to do in the past," he said. "And a lot of these things are combining together and trickling into an effect where crime is rising."
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Austin City Limits fest is the latest festival to announce the removal of rapper DaBaby, who has come under fire for homophobic comments made during a recent festival.
The 29-year-old rapper, whose real name is Jonathan Lyndale Kirk, was dropped by Lollapalooza just hours before his set on Sunday, followed by the Governor's Ball in New York and Nevada's Day N Vegas after making unsolicited comments about men with HIV/AIDS at the Rolling Loud Festival in Miami.
DaBaby will no longer be performing at Austin City Limits Music Festival — lineup update coming soon. pic.twitter.com/jAYfdJFxJf
— ACL Festival (@aclfestival) August 3, 2021
There is no word on who he will be replaced with yet, though rumors on ACL's subreddit, r/aclfestival, are saying they expect Tyler, The Creator, who performed at Lollapalooza. Kirk will be replaced at Day N Vegas by rapper Roddy Ricch.
Kirk later backtracked his offensive statements on his Instagram story, but again faced criticism for not exactly apologizing.
After facing a second round of backlash for his Instagram statements, the rapper posted on Instagram, saying:
In addition to being dropped from the festivals, DaBaby has been denounced by fellow celebrities like Dua Lipa, Madonna and Elton John.
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Austin FC Head Coach Josh Wolff has run out of ways to say it: the team needs to score goals.
Austin is now scoreless for four of five of its home matches and has been shut out for nine of its last 11 games. Instead of trending upward after their grueling seven-match road stretch, the team has tanked to the bottom of the West as they head to a home match against Houston Dynamo at 8 p.m. on Wednesday.
For everything, you need to know about attending the game, click here.
What to expect
They say all good things come in threes, and for Austin those come in the names of Sebastian Driussi, Moussa Djitte and McKinze Gaines. Driussi, who is Austin FC's most expensive signee yet and could solve Austin's scoring woes, can stop quarantining Tuesday. He likely won't play Wednesday since he will have had only one minute of training but will probably debut in a road match against FC Dallas on Saturday. Meanwhile, Djitte is still missing and hasn't made it to the U.S. at the confusion of Austin FC fans and staff and there's no news of Gaines playing on Wednesday after signing on Saturday.
Austin's injured roster is finally drying up: right back Nick Lima subbed in for a few minutes for the first time in weeks on Saturday against Colorado, and just four others are still off the pitch. Dani Pereira is still out, however, and he's proven to be the secret ingredient for many of Austin's best matches in the past.
Houston was Austin FC's first-ever MLS opponent as they beat the club 3-2 for a preseason La Copita match. Since then, the club has stayed out of the limelight and is ninth in the Western Conference off of a nine-match winless streak. Like Austin, the Dynamo are skimpy on scoring, but their solid defense has led them to three straight draws.
On Saturday, Houston made a big move by signing LAFC winger Corey Baird. Baird scored against Austin in the teams' first matchup on April 17 and has scored two more goals since, but it's unclear whether the experienced winger will be wearing orange come Wednesday.
Though unlikely, it could be a signee vs. signee situation as Austin and Houston head into their first official Texas Derby match.
Projected starting lineup
Sans Driussi, Austin will still be hard-pressed to find their perfect fit as striker up top. A young Manny Perez took the starting spot for the first time on Saturday and could crown the offense again. Meanwhile, Rodney Redes is as likely as any other to take the winger position as he looks to finally nab that first official goal with the team. Jon Gallagher, who scored Austin's first home goal, and winger Jared Stroud are also options to play on the right flank.
Nick Lima saw limited playing time on Saturday, and he could be back to take his starting spot this week—this time sporting a mohawk. His replacement, 32-year-old Hector Jimenez, has still been playing well and could hold onto the spot for longer.
Cecilio Dominguez could permanently be back in his left winger position, or he could sit up top and adopt his most comfortable "false-9" status as the club waits for Driussi to take the striker spot.
Meanwhile, Brad Stuver continues to save the team from catastrophe in the keeper position. Stuver once again pulled off two nail-biting saves in the 1-0 loss to Colorado on Saturday and is quickly gaining acclaim as a potential MLS All-Star roster member.
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