By Natalia E. Contreras
Source Austin American-Statesman
Austin police on Wednesday shared video footage and 9-1-1 calls from an hourslong SWAT standoff on Oct. 27, when a Southwest Austin man was shot by police after he fired at city code enforcement personnel attempting to cut his overgrown lawn.
Police Chief Joseph Chacon on Wednesday said the incident, which began about 9:16 a.m. at 56-year-old Robert Bruce Richart's home in the 10600 block of Pinkney Lane, was still under investigation.
On Wednesday, Chacon shared two 9-1-1 calls from two neighbors — one who was reporting shots he heard outside his home and another who shared with police Richart's name and phone number.
A video from SWAT officer Eric Strnad's body camera shows his body shadow lifting up his weapon and firing about five shots. In the same video, officers are heard shouting "You OK" and "Yes. He had a rifle in his hand," following the shooting.
Video from Strnad's helmet camera shows footage of the driveway of the home as the shooting happens.
Strnad was placed on administrative leave while Austin police conduct concurrent criminal and internal investigations into the incident, which is standard protocol in the Police Department when deadly force is used. The criminal investigation will be conducted with the Travis County district attorney's office, and the administrative investigation will be overseen by the civilian Office of Police Oversight.
That day, officers were helping Austin code enforcement employees serve a search warrant for nuisance and abatement at Richart's home. His property had previously been cited for overgrowth in excess of 12 inches, which the city considers a health and safety hazard.
"However, the subject would not open the door and talk with (officers) face to face," Chacon said.
Officers left a copy of the warrant on his front door, and contractors employed by code enforcement then began to work on the yard.
"At approximately 10:21 a.m. an APD officer said over the air that someone inside the residence fire gunshots at them," Chacon said. "APD officers immediately relocated Austin code enforcement personnel and the lawncare contractors to a safe location."
About 3:19 p.m. Richart began firing his weapon from inside the home at SWAT officers who were now in the backyard of the residence, Chacon said.
"Due to this immediate threat, officers used an Explosive Ordnance Disposal robot, also known as an EOD robot, to enter the home through the front door," he said. "The robot's camera feed showed that a fire had been started in the residence and was quickly spreading."
More gunshots were heard, but it was unclear where Richart was firing from inside the residence. For the next 20 minutes, officers continued to request Richart to exit the home, but he did not exit, Chacon said.
The fire spread and the house was now fully engulfed in flames, he said.
The Austin Fire Department began working to extinguish the fire.
At 3:39 p.m. the home's garage door opened, and Richart began walking out of the garage "with weapons in his hands," Chacon said.
Strnad fired gunshots at Richart who fell to the ground.
"Due to the smoke obscuring visibility SWAT officer Brandon Stewart impacted him with two less-than-lethal rounds to ensure that Richart was no longer a threat," Chacon said.
Officers then disarmed Richart and moved him away from the burning residence. AFD continued to fight the blaze to contain the fire and protect nearby structures and houses.
Austin Travis County EMS took Richart to a local hospital where he died at 4:01 p.m., Chacon said.
Anyone with information about the incident can contact Crime Stoppers at 512-472-8477 or use the Crime Stoppers App.
To watch the video and audio related to this incident released by police go to the department's YouTube page.
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