Austin Cops Said They Shot A Man Who Fired On Them–But It Turns Out He Didn’t Fire A Shot
Lawrence Parrish faces charges including aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and remains jailed on $500,000 bond even though the Austin police admitted he never shot at them.
On the night of April 7, 2017, the roommate of Austin, Texas, resident Lawrence Parrish called 911 to report that Parrish was sitting in the street with a gun. She said that Parrish, then 31, had been acting strange all day and speculated that he might be on drugs. By the time police arrived, Parrish had gone back inside his home. Austin Police Chief Brian Manley said Parrish refused to come out for a “period of time,” which prompted officers to call a SWAT team.
Police say Parrish eventually emerged from the house holding a .40-caliber Hi-Point rifle. They initially claimed that he had fired at the officers, which prompted them to shoot back.
Four officers shot at Parrish. Parrish’s brother, Cluren Williams, says he was shot over nine times, although authorities have not confirmed this. He was rushed to a nearby hospital and, according to friends and family, two fingers had to be amputated. Parrish was booked into the Travis County Correctional Complex by proxy while recovering from his injuries. Williams also claims that Parrish’s family was not allowed to visit him in the hospital after he was shot. “They won’t give us any access, we’re not getting any logical explanation, we’re not getting any good reasoning why the mother can’t even see him. It’s just ridiculous,” he told KXAN-TV.
According to an April 8 arrest affidavit, one of the police officers claimed he saw Parrish “raise the rifle toward his direction,” before firing two rounds at him. The officer then ducked to avoid gunfire, but when he heard additional shots, he believed that they were coming from Parrish. The officers who shot at Parrish were put on administrative leave the week after the shooting, while Internal Affairs and the Austin Police Department’s Special Investigations Unit conducted inquiries on the incident as part of protocol.
But just a few days after Parrish was shot by the police, Manley changed course. “We now believe, based on where we are at in the investigation, that he did not fire,” he said. “Even though our officers that night at the scene believed that he had, in fact, fired the weapon.”
Despite the admission from the police that Parrish did not shoot at them, Parrish’s $500,000 bond was not reduced, and then charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, aggravated assault against a public servant, and possession of a controlled substance remained unchanged. Manley has stated that these charges are still appropriate because Parrish brandished a weapon in a threatening manner. Advocates in Austin disagree; on June 6, the grassroots criminal justice reform group Austin Justice Coalition started a fundraiser to bail Parrish out.
Williams told The Appeal that his brother was denied a bond reduction three times. He also said that he has obtained video from the night of the incident that contradicts police claims and that he’s eager to present that evidence when Parrish’s case finally goes before a judge (jury selection in the case begins on July 12).
Parrish has remained behind bars in a year where the Austin Police Department struggles with police shootings. In 2018, five suspects have been shot by its officers. Only one of those who was shot survived.