After nearly nine years, the University of the Incarnate Word quietly agreed last month to a confidential financial settlement that closed a wrongful death civil lawsuit filed by the Redus family against the Catholic school and campus Policeman Christopher Carter.
The events covered in the lawsuit and this article occurred during the administration of UIW President Louis Agnese Jr., who held the position from 1985 to 2016, and months after he hired his brother Michael for a position in his administration that included responsibility for campus security. The current administration of President Thomas Evans settled the case.
Carter, for undisclosed reasons, refused to sign the settlement agreement. Carter remains a licensed peace officer in good standing in the state of Texas, despite a record of cycling through at least 13 jobs as a peace officer between 2004 and 2020, in some instances being fired, in others resigning, often after only months on the job.
Cameron Redus, one of five children in the family and an honors student weeks away from graduation, was fatally shot five times by Carter in an off-campus encounter in the parking lot of his Alamo Heights apartment complex in the early morning hours of Dec. 6, 2013, after returning home from a night of celebration with fellow students.
After the shooting, Carter was placed on paid leave for one year and later allowed to resign his position at UIW. Despite Carter’s poor service record at UIW, the fatal shooting and ensuing lawsuit, the university later provided Carter with a letter of recommendation that enabled him to get hired at other South Texas law enforcement agencies, according to sworn depositions taken in the lawsuit.
Academics who study law enforcement refer to Carter and other officers who continue to find work after their termination or forced resignations as “wandering officers.“
The Texas Legislature’s Sunset Advisory Commission’s Report on the Texas Law Enforcement Commission, issued earlier this month, calls for the establishment of a blue-ribbon committee to recommend reforms that will allow the agency to identify police officers no longer fit for duty or charged with criminal behavior and revoke their licenses.
One case that came under the commission’s scrutiny, as reported last week in the San Antonio Express-News, was that of Matthew Luckhurst, twice fired from the San Antonio Police Department. Luckhurst was first fired while working on the downtown bike patrol unit when he was caught giving a feces sandwich to a homeless man. Arbitrators overturned the decision by Police Chief William McManus to terminate Luckhurst, but he was fired a second and final time for later defecating in the women’s room of an SAPD locker room and then smearing the commode seat with a brown substance meant to appear as feces.
Months later, Luckhurst was hired as a reserve officer in the city of Floresville but was fired last week in the wake of the Express-News’ reporting on his rehiring.
Mayor Cissy Gonzalez-Dippel apologized to residents and said police hiring practices in Floresville will be reviewed.
Additional attention was paid to the issue in the wake of the Uvalde school shooting in May that left 19 children and two adult teachers dead, with much criticism directed toward the Department of Public Safety and the Uvalde schools Police Chief Pete Arredondo, who was later fired. Arredondo, who worked for multiple law enforcement agencies in South Texas, was criticized by a past supervisor who said he was ill-suited to hold leadership positions.
Carter’s record of troubled employment as a peace officer bouncing in and out of one job after another reflects the fact that many small town and campus police forces with limited resources tend to ignore past work histories or even conduct background checks, according to a landmark study published in the Yale Law Journal in 2020 that examined the work history of 98,000 peace officers in Florida over a 30-year period. The study revealed that at any one time, an average of 1,100 police officers fired from one agency were working at another agency in the state.
Even before the Redus shooting, there were 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. 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 the officer. Carter remained on the job.
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 bird droppings. Carter was formally reprimanded by his supervisor for verbally abusing and intimidating people on the Incarnate Word High School campus while directing traffic.
Carter’s account of events leading to his fatal shooting of Redus has been questioned from the beginning, although Bexar County District Attorney Susan Reed decided not to charge Carter in the case. Her successor, Nico LaHood, met with the family and promised a full investigation, but a grand jury declined to indict Carter.
Carter, assigned to work the night shift, was returning to the UIW campus from a post-midnight food run to a nearby Whataburger. In his version of events, he was traveling northbound on Broadway and crossing Hildebrand Avenue when Redus’ vehicle passed him, swerving out of lane and bumping a curb. The UIW police vehicle’s rear camera, however, shows Carter was turning into campus and pulled onto Broadway to follow Redus even though he had no reason to believe the vehicle was being driven by a UIW student. The police vehicle’s front camera was inoperative, but the police audio recording confirms that Carter did not turn on his overhead lights or siren but simply followed Redus to the Treehouse Apartments north of campus. He turned on his overhead lights only after entering the apartment complex and coming to a stop behind Redus’ parked vehicle. Redus had exited his vehicle and was walking to his nearby second floor apartment when Carter ordered him to stop.
There were other important inconsistencies in Carter’s story.
A post-mortem report did, indeed, show that Redus was intoxicated and had a minute trace of marijuana in his system. The autopsy report, released later, seemingly contradicted Carter’s claim that he feared for his life as an unarmed Redus charged at him with a raised arm and fist after a prolonged violent struggle. Redus weighed about 150 pounds while Carter weighed approximately 300 pounds.
A single witness to part of the altercation, a student who lived next door to Redus and heard the parking lot confrontation underway, told police he saw Redus with his back on the hood of a parked car, using his legs to stave off Carter. Redus, he said, did not have the baton or any other weapon in his hands at that time as he flailed at Carter.
The FBI transcript of the police audio recording from the scene clearly shows that Redus thought Carter was using the pretext of an arrest to sexually assault him. Carter repeatedly ordered Redus to stop resisting, while Redus protested. Carter threatened to shoot the unarmed student if he continued to resist, which prompted Redus to ridicule the officer and demand that he back off.
As the struggle continued, Carter later told Alamo Heights police that he grew fatigued and finally drew his weapon as Redus, arm and fist raised, charged at him. There is no indication on the audio recording of Redus striking Carter with a baton, or any mention of a baton.
According to the autopsy reports, five of the six shots fired by Carter hit Redus. Either of two shots, the coroner ruled, would have been fatal, both contradicting Carter’s version that he fired as Redus charged him. One of those two shots hit Redus from behind, entering his back, severing his spine and tearing his aorta. The other was fired into Redus’ left eye socket at a sharp downward angle that exited his lower neck.
The shot that missed Redus, perhaps the first of six fired by Carter, was elevated and struck a bank’s ATM 300 feet away at a 90 degree angle away from Carter and Redus, suggesting Redus was close enough to Carter to hit the officer’s arm and cause him to misfire directly to his right side. Another shot, perhaps the second, first struck Redus’ elbow before hitting his torso.
In the audio recording, eight seconds elapse from the time of the first to sixth shot from Carter’s .40-caliber semiautomatic service weapon, more than double the time it would take to fire six times, according to firearms experts.
The Alamo Heights EMS responder at the scene was tasked with examining Carter, who was placed in the back seat of an ambulance while officers cordoned off the body and examined case shellings and other evidence. Carter showed no signs of being struck on the head or face with a baton, according to the EMS report, which noted that even his uniform shirt remained neatly tucked in. Carter refused further examination.
Carter’s conduct conflicted with UIW police policy and practices manual in use at the time that prohibited campus officers from arresting or physically detaining students on misdemeanor charges. The alleged DWI offense would have been a misdemeanor charge for Redus, who at age 21 had an unblemished record in his hometown on the Texas Gulf Coast and after four years on campus at UIW. Instead, a young man with a bright future paid with his life for one night of partying, a decision to drive while intoxicated and a deadly encounter with a troubled cop.
Carter and his attorney have declined comment throughout the course of the last nine years.