Police: Man shot himself in head while handcuffed in cruiser

Police are investigating how a man was able to shoot himself in the head while handcuffed in a police car on Jan. 8, 2017. (KXAN Photo | Todd Bailey)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin Police are investigating how a suspect handcuffed inside a patrol car was able to get into the car with a gun and shoot himself.

APD protocol calls for searching a suspect for weapons before they are placed inside a police vehicle.

Police arrested the young man at Barton Creek Square Mall around noon for shoplifting and possession of a controlled substance. Officers couldn’t figure out his name, so they decided to drive him to APD Headquarters downtown to get fingerprints. On the way, police say the young man was making suicidal comments. When the officer asked if he had the means to do that, the suspect said he did.

“[He] removed a pistol it appears from the back of his waistband, placed it towards his head while still handcuffed, was able to pull his hands around to the side,” explains APD Interim Chief Brian Manley. Manley says the officer then pulled over and got out of the car at Sixth Street and Lavaca Street in front of the Austin Ale House, and started shouting commands at the suspect. “The officers were trying to get people a safe distance away from the scene while actively handling what was happening.”

According to Manley, after six minutes of pointing the gun at himself, the suspect shot himself in the head. “Absolutely there was a danger [to the police officer]” Manley said. “If this individual had chosen to remove that weapon and fire at the officer instead of saying something, we could be here discussing a very different incident here today.

Police believe the man is in his late teens or early 20s, but he still has not been identified. The suspect was sent to University Medical Center Brackenridge in critical condition.

Chief Manley says the entire ordeal was captured on police video. APD is investigating whether protocol was followed. APD policy says officers cannot put their hands under a suspect’s clothing unless they feel something that seems like it could be a weapon. They can make suspects take off coats and jackets.

The officer who was driving the car with the suspect in the back has been with the Austin Police Department for nearly 11 years. Another officer who has been with APD for nearly seven years was also present for the arrest and was following behind the police car that had the suspect inside.

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