Following a July 29 ruling by the Fourth Court of Appeals in San Antonio, the University of the Incarnate Word will finally have to answer in court for the actions of a troubled campus cop who fatally shot honors senior Cameron Redus outside his off-campus apartment nearly nine years ago.
A scheduled civil trial next month in the wrongful death lawsuit filed by Mickey and Valerie Redus, Cameron’s parents, against UIW and former campus police officer Christopher Carter, comes after years of legal maneuvering by the university in federal and state courts. Each ruling has gone against UIW and favored the Redus family, media-shy evangelical Christians from Baytown who have consistently said their pursuit of justice and restoration of their son’s reputation is far more important than any monetary damages they might collect.
Their son’s life ended in the early hours of Dec. 6, 2013, when Cameron Redus was fatally shot by Carter, who had followed Redus to his apartment and attempted to arrest him after noticing him weaving in and out of a traffic lane along Broadway around 1 a.m. Carter later told Alamo Heights police officers a struggle with Redus occurred and he shot the unarmed student because he feared for his life.
A firm trial date in Bexar County has been set for Sept. 19, according to Brent Perry, the Houston attorney who has represented the Redus family for the last eight years on a contingency basis. UIW officials under former President Lou Agnese Jr., who held that position from 1985 to 2016, and the current administration of President Thomas Evans have declined to settle the lawsuit on terms acceptable to the Redus family.
If the case finally goes to trial, Carter’s troubled past as a peace officer and UIW’s failure to conduct a background check before hiring Carter in 2011, or provide him with significant training afterwards, will come under the spotlight, according to pretrial depositions.
So will a number of incidents involving Carter during his time at UIW, including a middle-of-the-night intrusion into a female student’s dorm room under the guise of investigating a campus fender-bender, an episode that occurred two months before the Redus shooting. A formal complaint by the student’s family resulted in Carter’s supervisors acknowledging the officer’s unacceptable behavior and warning the student to avoid on-campus encounters with Carter.
Other allegations reported by fellow UIW officers: Carter twice unholstered his service weapon on campus in inappropriate shows of bravado and took part in an illegal, on-campus shooting of pigeons after police vehicles were soiled by the birds. Carter was formally reprimanded by his supervisor for verbally abusing and intimidating people on the Incarnate Word High School campus while directing traffic.
None of his transgressions or past issues in other law enforcement jobs led to serious disciplinary actions or a decision to terminate him from the campus force, even though other officers and UIW employees have told me Carter was widely regarded as a pariah unsuited to carry a gun or wear a badge.
Carter’s alleged unprofessional conduct record while working on the UIW force and the role of the former university president’s brother, Michael Agnese, who was hired as the director of public safety and placed over the campus police department three months before the killing, will come under intense scrutiny, according to lawyers who are watching the civil lawsuit and spoke on the understanding they would not be named.
“A seasoned cop would have let the student enter his apartment with a warning. He was home safe,” said one attorney not involved in the case.
The most damning evidence will emerge from the Bexar County Medical Examiner’s official autopsy, which directly contradicts Carter’s claims he shot Redus as the student charged at him with a raised fist, making Carter fear for his life.
Former UIW board trustees and two administrators who worked under Lou Agnese have told me they were never given a copy of the autopsy report or briefed on its conclusions that contradicted Carter’s version of the shooting, which UIW leadership and its legal representatives have consistently defended.
“My understanding is that Lou [Agnese] was purposefully keeping the board in the dark to protect us legally and limit our individual liability after the lawsuit was filed,” one trustee said this week, agreeing to speak only without attribution.
“There was never any direct order handed down, but it was understood anyone who talked about the case to the media or publicly challenged the university position would be fired by Lou,” one former administrator told me this week. “We kept our heads down. It was a terrible time.”
Carter told the Alamo Heights police officers who responded to the scene that a struggle ensued after he followed Redus to his apartment and tried to arrest him. Carter said he had left campus during his night shift to pick up a fast food meal at a nearby Whataburger, saw an individual driving erratically, and exercised his authority to engage in an off-campus pursuit even though he had no idea the vehicle he was pursuing was occupied by a UIW student.
Carter’s version of events is contradicted by the evidence, including video from his police vehicle, an audio recording of the confrontation and the autopsy report. Carter never turned on his overhead lights or siren while following Redus north on Broadway for an eighth of a mile — until he pulled into the Treehouse Apartments complex at 101 Arcadia Place in Alamo Heights.
Meanwhile, a university dispatcher was initially unable to direct Alamo Heights police to the apartment location because Carter provided her with the wrong address.
Redus, who had parked his vehicle and was walking toward his apartment door, had been drinking and had traces of marijuana in his system, the autopsy showed, after an evening with friends celebrating their graduation later that month.
One element of the UIW defense of Carter that has emerged in depositions is a depiction of Redus as out-of-control and violent while under the influence, with a .155% blood alcohol level and a faint trace of marijuana in his system. The police audio recording shows Redus initially cooperating with Carter, not slurring his words or acting intoxicated, and not resisting until the officer initiated physical contact that seemingly frightened Redus.
Carter claimed that Redus resisted arrest, somehow gained control of his police baton to strike him, and later in the nine-minute confrontation, came running at him unarmed with an upraised fist, somehow making Carter fear for his life. Redus weighed 160 pounds and had no history of violent behavior. Carter, much taller than Redus and weighing 290 pounds, according to university records, said he shot Redus as he attacked.
The autopsy directly contradicts that account, which made many in the legal community at the time question Bexar County District Attorney Susan Reed, and later, her successor Nico LaHood, both of whom decided not to conduct serious grand jury investigations into the case. Sources say Carter was never called before a grand jury to testify. In a deposition taken in early 2021 for the Redus family’s civil suit, he pleaded the Fifth Amendment in response to questions about the fatal shooting.
Redus was hit with five of the six rounds Carter fired from his service weapon, according to police reports and the autopsy. One shot hit his elbow and another his hip. The coroner ruled that the two fatal shots were a bullet through his back that severed his spine, hit his aorta and exited the front of his body, leaving powder marks on his shirt, and another shot fired down at Redus from above that entered his left eye socket and exited his lower neck 9 inches lower than the entry wound, suggesting Carter was standing well above Redus when he fired. That shot also left powder burns on Redus’ face.
The .40-caliber weapon Carter used could have discharged six rounds in 3 seconds, but 8 seconds transpired between his first and sixth shot, raising further questions about Carter’s version of the shooting. The word “baton” is never heard on the tape, and Redus expressed disbelief on the recording that Carter was threatening to shoot him.
Pretrial depositions raise serious questions about UIW’s hiring practices for its police force. Sources at UTSA and Trinity University told me Carter applied for positions there at the time, but his evident inability to hold a job led them to ignore his application.
Carter said he worked as a convenience store clerk and pawn shop manager trainee after earning a criminal justice degree from UTSA in 1997. He attended San Antonio College’s Law Enforcement Training Academy from 2003 through 2004 where he earned his peace officer’s license.
From September 2004 when he was hired as an unpaid reserve deputy for the City of Marion until May 2011 when he was hired as a full-time campus police officer for UIW, Carter held nine different law enforcement or security jobs, most only for a matter of months, according to his deposition testimony.
Carter said he lasted six months in the unpaid position with the City of Marion; eight months as an unpaid reserve officer with the City of Cibolo; six months as an unpaid support deputy with the Bexar County Sheriff’s Department; three months as a paid deputy with the Atascosa County Sheriff’s Department; six months as a paid court bailiff with the Bexar County Sheriff’s Department; six months as a licensed private investigator for Hub International insurance company; five months as a part time reserve officer for the City of San Antonio’s Marshal Unit, working nights as a municipal court bailiff; seven months as a night patrol officer for the City of Mathis, where he was fired for reasons Carter said he cannot recall; and six months as a code enforcement officer and peace officer for the City of George West.
Carter was hired by UIW as a campus police officer in May 2011 and was placed on paid administrative leave after fatally shooting Redus in December 2013. One year later, university officials allowed him to resign in good standing.
Since then, after applying without success for dozens of positions with various area law enforcement agencies, including applications to the City of San Antonio and Bexar County, Carter was finally hired in December 2015 for a part-time job in the City of Orange Grove in Jim Wells County, which he held for six months until May 2016. Carter was then rehired by the City of Mathis, but was fired after 11 months in March 2017.
Carter’s last job in law enforcement was with the City of Poteet, where he began as a reserve officer before moving into a full-time position. That employment ended after three-and-a-half years in November 2020 when he said he “retired” to return to San Antonio to care for family members.
A UIW panel that conducted a single pre-employment interview with Carter in April 2011 did not press him about his inability to hold a job for long, and did not ask why he was terminated by the City of Mathis, Carter said in his deposition. Carter said UIW did not require him to take any verbal or written tests, and he was never shown the university police department’s 131-page policy and procedures manual.
Carter said he did not meet UIW Police Chief Jacob Colunga prior to his hiring, and initial on-the-job training was limited to shadowing another UIW officer for two weeks. Colunga was demoted in 2014, months after the shooting.
The Sept. 19 trial is expected to last several weeks.
This article has been updated to correctly reflect the arrangement under which Brent Perry is representing Cameron Redus’ parents.