UPDATED at 6 p.m. by Iris Dimmick: A copy of the audio recording that captured the final moments of University of the Incarnate Word student Robert Cameron Redus, who was shot five times at close range by UIW police officer Christopher Carter during an off-campus traffic stop, has been released by the Alamo Heights Police Department. Click here for details.
UPDATED at 2:30 p.m. by Iris Dimmick: Jonathan Guajardo, the author of this article and three-term student body president at UIW, helped lead a rally on Thursday to protest the grand jury’s decision not to pursue criminal charges against former UIW police officer Christopher Carter, who fatally shot UIW student Robert Cameron Redus during an off-campus traffic stop. The protest, just outside District Attorney Nico LaHood’s office, started with a handful of Cameron’s friends and gathered nearly 25 UIW students, alumni, and other citizens by noon.
The group had hoped that LaHood would come outside to publicly address their concerns, but he did not make an appearance. “We’ll never know if (LaHood) swayed the grand jury by not presenting a good case,” Guajardo said, confident that their message was at least heard and that the civil suit brought against UIW and Carter by the Redus family will be successful. Since a no bill was returned on Carter, the records of the proceedings will remain sealed.
Download LaHood’s official statement on the case here.
“This case should scare all of us,” said local poet Naomi Shihab Nye, who attended the morning protest after reading Guajardo’s story below. “As a parent, as an educator, I would hope that my community would do justice for an unarmed student. I have been profoundly disturbed by the response of (UIW) and I would hope that a grand jury would make a better decision.”
“New DA, same old story,” chanted Stephanie Leihsing, whose son was friends with Redus. Leihsing has been a part of organizing several rallies in remembrance of the honors student at UIW for the past year. Leihsing said LaHood let the politics of prosecuting a police officer cloud the grand jury process.
Luke Davis, who grew up with Redus in their hometown of Baytown, Texas, said he had mourned silently until news broke that Carter will not face a criminal trial.
“The judicial system and District Attorney LaHood looked at all of the evidence that they accumulated and basically said that it was okay for Christopher Carter to follow Cameron home and shoot him down,” he said. “If they’re not going to hold him accountable for his actions, what’s the point of this whole system?”
The months following the unjustified killing of Robert Cameron Redus provoked feelings of outrage and despondency among students at the University of the Incarnate Word (UIW), yet also a glimmer of hope.
We struggled to piece together a list of recommendations that would prevent such a senseless, off-campus killing of an unarmed student from ever happening again. Zealously, we crammed into tight meeting rooms and hammered out a well-constructed list of simple measures to reshape the university’s campus police department.
(View the former UIW Student Government Association’s recommendations for the UIW Campus Police in its entirety here.)
We believed our recommendations would be taken seriously by the university administration, which would place the safety of its students above its own political calculations and legal maneuvering. We were wrong.
In the months following the December 2013 off-campus tragedy, we staged multiple demonstrations outside the campus grounds to protest the administration’s handling of the case and its treatment of the Redus family. Lining up along Broadway’s sidewalks, we chanted and stood for hours, hoping our words would make a difference. We were wrong.
When then-District Attorney Susan Reed kept delaying a grand jury presentation of the case, long after the investigation was concluded, we assumed she feared the impact on her re-election efforts. Frustrated by inaction, we encouraged friends and family to vote for her Democratic challenger Nicholas “Nico” LaHood. We helped elect him in what most called a major upset.
After the Redus family first met with District Attorney LaHood, Cameron’s mother, Valerie Redus, “felt optimistic that justice would be done in the case.” This optimism spread from family to friends to students and supporters. Under LaHood’s leadership, we came to believe, Carter would see his day in criminal court. We were wrong.
Despite our best efforts, the support of numerous community members, and the overwhelming evidence challenging Carter’s version of events that fateful night, the university maintained its unwavering defense of Carter. Meanwhile, nothing seemed to be happening in the district attorney’s office as weeks turned to months and still LaHood did not act.
The news struck like lightning on Tuesday. Carter was no-billed by the grand jury and the family, LaHood made the obligatory statement, and the media and the public were left with a superficial press release that said nothing, answered no questions and failed to address the evidence.
Read what Redus family lawyer Brent Perry had to say about the audio tape of the incident and how it contradicted Carter’s version of events that night: Redus Family:Recording of Shooting ‘Discredits’ UIW’s Story.
Some examples of the inconsistencies left unanswered:
CLAIM: UIW stated that Carter activated his emergency lights at Broadway and Harrigan Court.
FACTS: Carter activated his police vehicle lights much later, at the intersection of Broadway and Arcadia Place (in front of Cameron’s apartment).
CLAIM: UIW claims that Redus sped down Broadway while driving erratically.
FACTS: Redus maintained a constant rate below 30 mph while driving directly to his apartment.
CLAIM: Redus challenged Carter immediately upon exiting his vehicle.
FACTS: Redus initially complied, responding, “That’s fine, that’s fine,” to all of Carter’s commands, according to the audio tape.
CLAIM: Carter immediately informed Redus that he stopped him on suspicion of drunk driving.
FACTS: Carter never informed Redus that he was “under arrest” until two minutes after the encounter and later referred to it only as a traffic stop.
CLAIM: Cameron never allowed Carter to perform a “pat down” on him.
FACTS: Cameron complied and allowed Carter to perform a search. Carter never asked Cameron for his identification at any point in their interaction.
CLAIM: Cameron committed three felonies.
FACTS: Resisting arrest is a misdemeanor. Aggravated assault only occurs “if the assailant causes serious bodily injury or uses or exhibits a deadly weapon. The offense of taking a weapon from an officer is subject to a defense of opposing excessive force.” Carter declined medical assistance and, according to the audio recordings, he never mentioned losing control of his police baton during their interactions.
CLAIM: Carter was well-trained and appropriately exercised this training in his interactions with Redus.
FACTS: Carter didn’t initially inform Redus he was under arrest, never requested identification and never performed any standard sobriety tests. No record exists of Carter contacting anyone at UIWPD at any time during the two minutes that he followed Cameron. When he did call for backup, Carter improperly identified his location, delaying a backup response which could’ve prevented the loss of Cameron’s life. Carter placed Redus in a chokehold and attempted to handcuff him without reading him his rights, asking for identification, or informing him of the charges against him. Carter didn’t possess an adequate amount of non-lethal forms of force, namely his pepper spray. Alamo Heights Police Chief Richard Pruitt noted that the result “would have been different if his officers were involved,” due to Carter’s lack of training and inadequate non-lethal supplies.
A district attorney exerts extraordinary influence over a grand jury, deciding which evidence to present (a controversial process currently under review by the Texas State Senate), and how that evidence is presented. No one really knows what this grand jury was told, how it was influenced by LaHood’s desire not to indict, and the possibility that grand jurors weren’t provided with a full account of the inconsistencies in Carter’s story or his history as a law enforcement officer unable to hold a job for very long anywhere he worked. Carter was grossly negligent at best, out of control at worst. The truth? We’ll probably never know.
During Cameron’s interaction with Carter on the night of December 6, 2013, he repeatedly told Carter, “You’re scaring me.” UIW and the DA’s handling of this case should be equally frightening for anyone currently enrolled at the University of the Incarnate Word or, for that matter, any one of San Antonio’s estimated 1.4 million citizens. LaHood, despite his campaign promises, seems unable to stand up to the pressures not to prosecute a member of the law enforcement community, even one who doesn’t deserve to hold that position of trust and authority.
This case is not closed. The wrongful death civil suit is still pending. Still, the grand jury’s action, or inaction, will stand as a deeply painful dismissal of a family who seeks justice for their son and themselves. There will be lingering effects on the students, the alumni and the community and how it views UIW. Many of us fear that the university’s leadership hasn’t learned any lessons from this tragedy, other than how to mount an aggressive defense.
With no one held accountable for such a senseless death, what’s to prevent this from happening again?
If that doesn’t scare you, nothing will.
*Featured/top image: Concerned citizens and friends of Cameron Redus protest outside District Attorney Nicholas LaHood’s office. Photo by Iris Dimmick.
Read more about Cameron Redus’ life, death, and family’s lawsuit here.
Grand Jury Clears UIW Cop in Student Slaying
An Open Letter to District Attorney Nico LaHood
Redus Family: Recording of Shooting ‘Discredits’ UIW’s Story
Judge Rejects UIW’s ‘Governmental Unit’ Status Claim
DA LaHood Reaches Out, Meets With Redus Family