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Police Chief ‘shocked’ after jurors recommend $67 million in damages for excessive force case

Landon Nobles was 24 years old when he was shot by police in 2017. (Nobles family)

Jurors determined that two Austin Police Department officers used excessive force that resulted in the death of 24-year-old Landon Nobles in May 2017, recommending $67 million worth of damages after seven days of testimony on Wednesday.

Spokespeople from both APD and the City of Austin said the verdict was surprising—an email to the entire police force from Police Chief Joseph Chacon said “I am shocked by the final outcome of the case, as it is inconsistent with my understanding of the facts of the incident.”

Nobles was shot and killed on East 6th Street at 2:45 a.m. during the 2017 Pecan Street Festival. According to former Police Chief Brian Manley, officers Lt. Richard Egal and Sgt. Maxwell Johnson heard gunshots and traced them to Nobles. On the last day of testimony, Egal said he pushed his bicycle into Nobles to stop him, heard a “clanking” and “clearly saw a gun,” before firing two or three rounds into the young man’s back as he ran away.

The District Attorney’s office cleared the two officers, resulting in no criminal charges. The Nobles family said once they received proof that the officers wouldn’t be charged, they filed a civil wrongful death lawsuit requesting $15 million in damages in 2018.

The Nobles family attorney, Edmund “Skip” Davis, said he had evidence to suggest that the officers were at fault, which prompted the suit. Prior witnesses Davis called to the stand, including nearby workers, friends and family of the deceased, testified that they had never seen Nobles with a gun and did not believe he posed a threat.

Nobles said witnesses with “no dog in the hunt” agreed that Nobles was shot in the back and did not have a weapon.

“This jury verdict sends a message that police behavior in the city of Austin has to tone down,” Nobles said. “The level of violence against the citizenry over the course of years has been answered now by the people of Travis County.”

Since the case was in civil court, jurors only needed to believe that the plaintiff’s claim was more than 50% true, instead of being convinced beyond a reasonable doubt.

According to the Austin Police Association Executive Director Ken Casaday, the organization does not agree with the verdict, saying it will not impact the officers’ jobs. The verdict will not review use-of-force policies either since the officers were not charged by the DA, Casaday said, and he believes the verdict will be overturned in appellate court.

In his email to the police force, Chacon asked officers to “please support Lt. Egal and Sgt. Johnson as the legal process moves forward.”

Meanwhile, the City of Austin issued the following statement:

“The City acknowledges the jury verdict and will explore all options as we move forward. The City and the Officers are genuinely surprised by the verdict, both the question of liability and certainly on the dollar amount awarded.”


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