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Austin Chief Defends Arrest of Jaywalking Suspect

Chief Art Acevedo, noticeably bristled by the attention and negative reaction from a video depicting a woman arrested Thursday after jaywalking and refusing to identify herself to police, responded by refusing to apologize for how the arrest was handled.

"Thank you, lord, that it is a controversy in Austin, Texas -- that we actually have the audacity to touch somebody by the arm and tell them, 'Oh my goodness Austin police we're trying to get your attention'," Acevedo said.

Photos and a video of the arrest of Amanda Jo Stephen, 24, were posted Thursday to the blog of Christopher Lee Quintero in which the University of Texas junior questioned officers actions.

The post has since been viewed more than 50,000 times after being linked in social media websites. Though initially critical, Quintero said he could see both sides when he spoke to the Statesman on Friday.

"Looking at the video it was not too bad," Quintero said. "Up until that point, I think (officers were) a little excessive. ... But (Stephen) started yelling and making commotion. I think she handled it poorly."

Officers assigned the the University of Texas area were working a pedestrian enforcement assignment Thursday in response to recent complaints from residents. They issued 28 warnings and wrote seven citations Thursday in the second week of the enforcement that has also focused on enforcing bicycle laws, Acevedo said.

Acevedo said he reviewed audio recordings and written reports of the arrest of Amanda Jo Stephen, 24, on a charge of failure to identify. He also went to the scene of the arrest, where he spoke with a witness. He concluded that no wrongdoing had been committed by the arresting officers and that Stephen had been fully aware officers were attempting to speak to her.

"I'm not buying it," Avedo said, responding to speculation that Stephen's ear buds may have prevented her from noticing officers were trying to stop her.

Acevedo said Stephen had a direct line of sight at an officer in front of her trying to stop her. An officer grabbed her after yelling at her to stop several times.

Stephen used profanity when speaking with officers, leading officers to handcuff her. At that point, she sat down on her own accord, went limp and refused to provide officers with her name, Acevedo said.

"She did the limp routine, and in 28 years of law enforcement, I can tell you it happens all the time," Acevedo said. "Quite frankly she wasn't charged with resisting and she's lucky I wasn't the arresting officer because I wouldn't have been as generous."

Only after screaming at officers and being placed in the pack of a police vehicle did Stephen provide her name. At that point, Acevedo said there was no way she was not going to be taken to jail.

"I stand here proud as a police chief saying that I am proud that this is the controversy that I am dealing with today on the day that we are actually convicting somebody of capital murder," Acevedo said, referring to the conviction of Brandon Daniel for the slaying of Austin police officer Jaime Padron.

Earlier: After a video posted online Thursday appeared to show a woman arrested for crossing the street in Central Austin that day, Police Chief Art Acevedo said that the officers had cause to detain and arrest her.

According to police, Amanda Jo Stephen, 24, disregarded traffic signals at the intersection of West 24th and San Antonio streets as she was running. Officers tried to stop her, according to a police spokeswoman, but she had earphones in and couldn't hear them. When they finally stopped her, she "was resisting and wouldn't provide identification," the spokeswoman said.

Stephen was booked at the Travis County Jail but jail records show she was no longer in custody on Friday.

The video posted online by blogger Chris Quintero prompted some to question the actions of the officers.

Quintero wrote that he had been sitting at a Starbucks on the corner at the intersection and had seen officers appear to be issuing jaywalking citations there.

"Suddenly, one of the cops shouts at an innocent girl jogging with her headphones on through West Campus," Quintero wrote. "He wobbled after her and grabbed her by the arm. Startled, and not knowing it was a cop, she jerked her arm away. The cop viewed this as resisting arrest and proceeded to grab both arms tightly, placing her in handcuffs."

The video shows the officers ultimately taking Stephen to a patrol car, where she can be heard screaming, "I didn't do anything!"

The footage prompted criticism from some online who agreed with her, and Acevedo discussed the situation with users on Twitter on Thursday night.

"@Austin_Police reviewed video, audio, reports & prepared to answer any complaints from arrestee," Acevedo wrote on Twitter on Friday morning. "Officers had cause to detain & arrest."

Copyright 2014 - Austin American-Statesman\

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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