Blaming the Dead, and What Isn’t Surprising About the Murder of Garrett Foster

No, it’s not surprising that the Austin Police Department let the person who killed Garrett Foster go after less than a day. It’s not surprising that they didn’t charge them. It’s not even surprising that the president of the Austin police officer’s union, Kenneth Cassaday, would publicly denounce Garrett Foster on the same day. 

Truth is, you could tell what APD thought of Garrett Foster from their very first press conference, just after midnight. It was 60 seconds, total, which also included the officer spelling her own name, (K A T R I N A  R A T C L I F F). One of the only details given was “reports” that he “may have had a rifle, and may have approached the suspect’s vehicle.” 

Within two hours of Garrett Foster being pronounced dead, APD had seemingly decided who was to blame, and in this case it was the victim. And if that press conference didn’t make it clear enough, the head of the police union certainly did. 

Now, police Chief Manley is using the latest APD press conference to highlight the suspect’s account of the shooting, effectively dismissing all other accounts as a “variety” of different reports. Which makes his pleas for anyone to “turn over” video evidence a sick joke. (And that’s not even including how Manley used the second half of the press conference as an APD boast/pity party. Yes, really.)

And, no, it’s not surprising that APD would use press conferences to attack the victim of a murder they’re supposed to investigate.

In fact, it echoes what they said about Mike Ramos, who was killed by police as he drove away. It took them a month to admit that Mike Ramos was unarmed, despite their repeated insistence on highlighting “reports” that he was.

It’s how they characterized Lawrence Parrish, who was shot seven times on his own porch. Initially, Manley had claimed that Parrish fired on officers, only to admit days later that he hadn’t. His family was still denied hospital visitation, and he was locked up for 15 months before the charges were dropped

It even echoes the language APD used to the victims of the 2018 Austin Bombings. Initially, APD tried to investigate the first victim, Anthony Stephan House, as the suspect. They went so far as to search his finances and speculate about the involvement of a drug dealer (yes, really). It took two more bombings, and the death of 17-year-old Draylen Mason, for APD to genuinely investigate their murders.

Eventually, they did find the perpetrator (who committed suicide), and a 25 minute “confession” video on his phone. Manley called that video “the outcry of a very challenged young man talking about challenges in his life that led him to this point.” He initially refused to call it terrorism. 

That description earned Manley a rebuke from the Onion of all places. The murder of Mike Ramos helped spark the current round of protests that Garrett Foster joined. In the first days of protest, Justin Howell was shot with a lead filled bean bag as he ran away, and critically injured. In the wake of the ensuing outrage, Austin City Council pledged to slash APD’s budget by $100 million and banned their use of escalating force. 

Manley’s explanation? That video evidence showed Justin Howell standing next to a person throwing a water bottle.

APD hasn’t released that video

While they did release footage of Mike Ramos’ murder early this week, it was only after months of delays. 

And they refuse to release the Austin bomber’s confession tape. 

As for the murder of Garrett Foster, the only footage released by police is a ten second dashboard cam that cuts out right before the suspect’s car leaves the scene.

Later, APD would receive a call from someone claiming to be the shooter. The suspect voluntarily turned themselves in for questioning. And was let go within a day without charge. They haven’t released his name, and probably never will. 

And that’s not surprising. On June 27th, Logan Bucknam tried to drive his car into protesters, and flashed a gun around at them. He then calmly drove to the parking garage of APD, were he met with a police officer and was released within an hour. 

According to reports, it was after that incident that Garrett Foster started bringing a gun to the protests. 

This is who APD is. And truth be told, it’s who they’ve been long before Brian Manley came into the picture. Only difference was, in the past, it was hidden behind slick PR hounds like Art Acevedo. They were able to successfully hide information from the public indefinitely.

Over the past few years, however, that mask has started to slip. It would be easy to blame Manley, for all his lack of charm. But the truth is, it’s coming from the brave activism of everyday people in, and from the city.

It was only a private cell phone video that alerted the public to what happened to Mike Ramos. It was the beautiful, heartbreaking editorializing of Joshua Howell, along with the initial accounts of on the scene medics, that shed light on what happened to Justin Howell, at a time when APD was barely acknowledging what they’d done. And it was the groundswell of local support that helped to free a wrongly imprisoned Parrish.

With this increasing activism, APD reveals itself more and more. It’s an agency that obscures facts in equivocating language, and expects the local press to do the same. It’s an agency that will hide evidence until forced by public pressure. That will eulogize terrorists, while trying to blame victims for their own plight.

And one that, left unrestrained, would turn every attempt to protest its actions into a shooting range, while coddling violent counter demonstrators, even as the bodies begin piling up.

Underneath it all, cops are cops.

No, it’s not surprising.

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