Manslaughter charges against a Texas cop who shot and killed an unarmed black man have been dropped by a federal judge, after he ruled that the police officer had federal immunity at the time because of his work with the FBI.
Charles Kleinert, a former Austin police detective who also worked for the FBI, killed 32-year-old Larry Jackson Jr. after shooting him in the neck following a chase in Texas on July 26, 2013. Kleinert was initially indicted on manslaughter charges by a Texas grand jury for the crime. However, on June 26, 2015, he filed a motion to dismiss the indictment.
On the day of the shooting, Kleinert was investigating a bank robbery in Austin, which falls under his duties as a federal officer, according to the Memorandum Opinion and Order Granting Motion to Dismiss written by District Judge Lee Yeakel. Kleinert was speaking with bank employees when Jackson appeared at the entrance of the bank and tried to enter through the locked door, state court documents.
Kleinert exited the building to apprehend Jackson. After a few minutes of conversation, Jackson got up and ran away. Kleinert shot Jackson after he allegedly failed to obey verbal orders to stop.
Judge Yeakel ruled Thursday that Kleinert was protected by the supremacy clause in the Constitution, designed to defend federal officers from prosecution while on duty, and that Texas courts had no jurisdiction over his case. Texas prosecutors had initially stated that Kleinert was acting as an Austin police officer, not a federal officer, when he killed Jackson.
According to Austin’s local Fox affiliate TV station, the judge also said that the gunshot Kleinert fired, fatally wounding Jackson, was unintentional.
Jackson’s family believes he was executed by Kleinert. “This is a legal technicality that will allow a killer to walk free,” said the family’s attorney, Adam Loewy, according to the Guardian. “It is one of the most horrendous moments in the history of civil rights in this country.”