Raul Munguia

Photo Credit: Sam Ortega | Daily Texan Staff

A man is wounded and in custody after pointing a handgun at Austin Police Department officers from the window of a North Campus apartment Sunday night.

Two APD officers fired at the unnamed suspect after a series of interactions through the man’s apartment window. According to APD assistant chief Raul Munguia, the subject pointed his gun, which was equipped with a laser, at the officers, before retreating deeper into the apartment and firing several shots.

“[When the officers arrived], the subject started pointing the gun at the officers, so the officers naturally tried to take cover,” Munguia said. “The subject continued to point the gun at the officers, and one of our officers discharged a round — it’s unclear if [the subject] was struck or not, but he returned into the apartment.”

After the subject retreated, the officers heard what they believed to be the man loading more weapons.

“The officers could hear what they believed was the subject loading more firearms, and another round was heard from within the apartment, but we don’t know at this point where that round went,” Munguia said.

When the man returned to the window, he pointed his laser at several APD officers’ chests, at which point two officers fired, Munguia said. One officer, whose name has not been released, believed he wounded the subject, who retreated.

“Within a few minutes, the subject in the apartment said he was bleeding and that he needed help,” Munguia said. “At that point, he came to the front door with his hands up and pretty much gave up. The officers took him into custody and helped him into the ambulance.”

Munguia said the subject, who is roughly 30 years old, is stable but received one to two gunshots in his left torso.

APD officers were called to the scene after the subject placed a 911 call to a friend. The subject said he needed help and ended the call abruptly, prompting the call’s recipient to alert the police.

Munguia said the incident took place at 2900 Cole St., which is the address of the La Casita apartments located a few blocks from St. David’s Medical Center. 

“Operations at St. David’s were not impacted,” Munguia said. “The scene was contained, and we had plenty of resources that arrived on scene.”

Though a hostage negotiator and SWAT team were en route to the scene, Munguia said events unfolded so quickly, the additional resources did not have time to arrive.

The two officers who fired at the suspect will be taken off street assignments until the investigation is completed, according to APD corporal David Boyd.

“It’s just standard policy until we go through the investigation,” Boyd said. “The officers aren’t on the street right now — they’ll be put on some kind of inside desk job for a little bit.”

Laura Boria Gonzalez, a Spanish and Portuguese graduate student who lives in Dominion Apartments, on the same block as the scene, said she heard three gunshots before 10 p.m. — first one, and then two more shots about five minutes later.

Boria Gonzalez said scenes of this nature are not typical in the neighborhood, where she has lived since July.

“This is the first time something like this has happened here,” Boria Gonzalez said. “There were a few moments, I was definitely scared, but now I’m just curious.”

UTPD held an open meeting with Austin Police Department assistant police chief Raul Munguia, the fourth and final candidate for its next Chief of Police this Friday, allowing students, faulty and staff the opportunity to ask questions and rate his characteristics.

Munguia, who has served as an assistant police chief for the Austin Police Department for two years, oversaw some patrols and helped plan security for large events. He said he thought one of the most important lessons from his experience with APD that he wanted to apply to UT and its police force was friendly interaction with the community.

Munguia explained that in dealing with groups like Occupy Austin, he believed APD had been more effective than other cities’ police departments because it set clear rules for the protestors and still allowed them to speak.

“We explained what was going to be allowed and what wasn’t and the fact that they’d be able to produce their signs and have their moment and get out their lesson,” Munguia said. “They were actually coming to us for ... people who were causing problems and not [with them].”

Munguia also said he thought it was going to be important to deal with UTPD’s high attrition rate among younger, lower ranking officers.

“Right now the greatest need in the department is the attrition rate,” Munguia said. “[There’s been pay increases], but it’s also how do you create a more challenging work environment.”

Munguia suggested UTPD officers could respond to alarm calls and other requests from APD radio frequencies, giving them more opportunity for variety.

Student Body Vice President Ugeo Williams, who attended the meeting, said he liked Munguia’s experience.

“I loved the fact that he has children, so he understands the safety part of a college campus,” Williams said. “I like the fact that he’s been in Austin, so he’s already probably dealt with the problems we’ve had in the past.”

Williams said he finds it important any UTPD police chief be able to deal with incidents on campus similar to ones that have recently taken place.

Associate vice president for campus safety and security Bob Harkins said with current police chief Robert Dahlstrom’s retirement at the end of this semester, the search committee for police chief, which had four finalists, will be making a recommendation to UT President William Powers Jr. shortly. 

“The atmosphere’s been positive for everybody,” Harkins said. “I think we brought four good candidates here.”

Vincent and Sibylle Hohendorf stroll on Shoal Creek Trail Sunday at dusk. The City Council recently proposed a bill to extend the hours of the trail to be accessible 24/7. 

Photo Credit: Maria Arrellaga | Daily Texan Staff

Students who use walking and biking trails such as the Shoal Creek trail adjacent to West Campus may have access to the trails 24/7 because of a resolution passed by City Council waiving current curfews beginning in June.

The three trails included in the resolution are the Shoal Creek, Johnson Creek and Butler Hike & Bike trails, which are currently closed from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. Council Member Chris Riley, who sponsored the bill, said trails need to be considered as a regular and safe form of transportation for pedestrians and bikers.

“More and more Austinites are finding that walking and biking are great ways to get around at all hours,” Riley said. “The trails we’re discussing were funded in part as transportation projects and should be available around the clock just like the other parts of our transportation network.”

Lewis Leff, Riley’s chief of staff, said the resolution passed 6-1 at the council’s meeting Thursday, with Mayor Lee Leffingwell opposing. 

Certain details of the resolution — such as which trails will be included, which hours of the curfew will be waived and how much funding will go into the resolution — are up to the discretion of the council because of amendments added to the resolution on Thursday, Leff said. He said these details will be determined at the council’s Feb. 12 work session. 

Raul Munguia, assistant police chief for the Austin Police Department, said funding is a big piece of the puzzle for council’s determination of which trails to implement in the plan. Munguia estimated that hiring an appropriate number of full-time, year-round patrol officers would cost the city $2.7 million for all three trails to run 24 hours.

“We don’t have those officers. We’d have to recruit, hire and train those officers, which could take anywhere from six months to a year,” Munguia said. “But to have [current] trained officers out on the trails for those time periods, the overtime for a year would be just a little over $3.1 million.”

Leff said the council has been presented with various options regarding which trails to leave open and what kind of police presence is appropriate.

“There’s no telling at this point,” Leff said. “There’s a lot of different ways that this discussion could go. We’re just trying to find a way that works for the people who have been asking for this and that also makes the staff feel comfortable.”

Published on February 4, 2013 as "Curfew times change for certain bike trails".

(Graphic by Natasha Smith)

While Austin and the state of Texas are seeing an overall drop in crime, downtown Austin is experiencing the opposite, forcing local authorities to implement new strategies to deal with growing safety concerns.

Crime statistics for the downtown Austin area show a 24.8 percent overall increase in violent crime and a 0.5 percent increase in property crime from May 2011 to May 2012, according to the Austin Police Department. In response to this growing problem, APD is taking crime-preventative measures, including increasing the number of officers downtown, placing extra lighting in high-crime areas and requiring all downtown officers to carry a whistle to better gain pedestrian attention in emergency situations, APD Assistant Chief Raul Munguia said.

This represents a growing trend for the 78701 ZIP code, which encompasses the downtown area. Over the last five years, 78701 has seen a 49.7 percent increase in violent crime and a 20.5 percent increase in property crime. APD defines violent crime as homicide, sexual assault, robbery and aggravated assault. Property crime is defined as burglary, theft, motor-vehicle theft and arson.

Munguia said APD’s most recent measure to deal with growing downtown crime has been adding eight extra patrol officers to the downtown night shift. Along with those officers, an undetermined number of additional officers will be added this month for what Munguia calls the “back-to-school” spike. The spike refers to a period of annual increased violent and property crime in the downtown area during the months of August and September, when the summer is ending and students are returning to school.

“It almost seems like they want to have their fun before they have to hit the books again,” Munguia said.

For the 78701 ZIP code, APD statistics show a 35.2 percent increase in violent crime and a 16.3 percent increase in property crime from 2010 to 2011. Those numbers include a 62.5 percent rise in the number of robberies, a 22.6 percent rise in the number of aggravated assaults and an 11.9 percent rise in the number of motor-vehicle thefts.

In the UT area, the campus saw a 2.4 percent decrease in violent crime and a 6.1 percent decrease in property crime last year. The 78705 ZIP code, encompassing the areas west and north of campus, saw a 8.1 percent increase in violent crime and a 29.5 percent decrease in property crime during the same period.

Economics senior Kathy Garin has been working as a hostess at Iron Cactus, a Mexican bar and grill in downtown Austin, for the last year-and-a-half. Garin said she has definitely noticed increased crime downtown and has witnessed many incidents firsthand.

“It’s definitely something that needs to be taken care of,” she said.

Garin said out of all the criminal activity she’s seen while working downtown, there is one incident that stuck out to her.

“I literally saw someone get stabbed,” she said, referencing a stabbing on East Sixth Street.

Garin said while she does feel safe in her workplace, it is only because walls shield her from most violent Sixth Street crime.

Munguia said APD is well aware of the recent rises in crime, as they constantly monitor crime statistics from all parts of Austin in order to most effectively distribute police resources and implement new strategies.

“We call it intelligence-led policing.” he said. “For example, downtown and up around Eighth Street, we were seeing a lot of aggravated assaults, so we added extra officers and also temporary lighting. We soon saw that the lighting was very effective in deterring crime by watching the statistics from that area, prompting us to experiment with extra lighting in other areas as well.”

Munguia said APD is currently in talks with Austin Energy to permanently place extra lighting on East Eighth Street near Congress Avenue and temporary lighting in the area immediately west of Interstate Highway 35 between East Third and Fifth Streets, where there has been a rise in motor-vehicle thefts.

APD Lieutenant Patrick Connor said despite the rising crime levels, he believes the downtown area is safe for students as long as they remain alert at all times.

“The key is to be aware of your surroundings,” he said. “Stay with your friends, and control your alcohol intoxication. Don’t let yourself be caught off guard.”

Connor said the highest level of crime occurs downtown between the hours of 2 and 3 a.m. when bars are closing, and people are beginning to make their way home in large numbers.

He said he also advises students to avoid leaving valuables visible in their vehicles and to park in a safe location — car thefts are up 12.2 percent city-wide from this time last year.

Of all downtown crime issues, Connor said the largest growing problem is the increasing number of “punch and run” robberies.

“That was the biggest trend that we have seen in the downtown area — intoxicated individuals walking alone to find their friends, their hotel, a cab or something like that, and then being attacked from behind for their cell phone,” he said.

Codes, a dance music DJ, begins the SXSW showcase presented by AM Only, an electronic music booking agency, at Mohawk on Friday night. The 10-day film, interactive, and music festival came to a close during the early morning hours of today.

Photo Credit: Rebeca Rodriguez | Daily Texan Staff

The growth of South by Southwest over the past few years has presented problems for law enforcement officers as the event has spread farther across the city, said Austin Police Department representative Raul Munguia.

“SXSW used to be a predominantly downtown event, but the number of venues west of Interstate-35 has been growing rapidly over the past few years,” Munguia said. “Protecting citizens and visitors during SXSW used to be primarily an effort of [APD’s] downtown sector. Now it is a department-wide effort.”

Munguia said APD officials have experimented with several new policies and procedures this year to combat the growth of the festival and keep attendees safe. He said officers worked three and a half days out of the week and were off for the others. This allowed department officials to be more rested than they have been in years past. They were also required to have access to the department’s radio system and to be on call for the entire week.

“We feel that increased presence on the streets can go a far way towards preventing crime and stopping disturbances before they even happen,” Munguia said.

He said the EMS, Code Enforcement and APD offices were moved to a centralized location, the Department Operations Center at the police headquarters, for the week, which allowed greater cooperation between the departments. He also said safety officials relied heavily on the new system of 29 security cameras, which were set up downtown last September.

“Of course there have been minor glitches, but we feel that this has been a very efficient way of operating,” Munguia said. “By comparison, SXSW has been very tame this year.”

Munguia said hotel burglaries and stolen wristbands were among the most prominent criminal incidents during SXSW. Police recovered stolen possessions from the hotels by using tracking software within some items. However, Munguia said as SXSW grows it becomes harder for police to prevent these types of problems.

“SXSW is such a huge event and there is such a huge influx of people,” Munguia said. “There will always be an element looking to get something for nothing and looking to take advantage of other people.”

Munguia said police reacted quickly to the theft of the wristbands, deactivated the microchips inside the bands and notified the public of the bands’ serial numbers. Regardless, he said there is an aspect of inevitability to the fights, assaults and thefts that happen during SXSW.

UTPD officer Darrell Halstead said the “spring break” and “SXSW” mentalities can cause students to put themselves in particularly dangerous situations.

“People feel like they need to get intoxicated or get high in order to enjoy a band,” Halstead said. “It’s for this reason that we see the obvious crimes such as DWI’s and public intoxication. What we don’t always hear about are the crimes such as sexual assaults.”

Radio-television-film junior Meryl Goodwin said she volunteered on the SXSW registration and utilities crew this year.

“I had a friend I volunteered with who was sexually assaulted by a group of drunken men as she was trying to walk past to a show by herself,” Goodwin said. “I was also at a rap/dubstep show and there were a group of high school girls in front of me snorting coke off of their phones. They had to leave the show early too because one of their friends was sick. And of course there’s always people smoking weed. But I think that’s pretty common at any show you’ll go to.”

Despite everything she witnessed, Goodwin said she felt relatively safe during SXSW.

“This year’s SXSW definitely had more people. I’ve been for the past three years and I had more issues trying to get in to shows than in years past,” Goodwin said. “But I think the national aspect is what makes SXSW so special. Bands and people come from all over the world and it’s a chance to show how great Austin is and meet and learn about new bands.”

Printed on Monday, March 19, 2012 as: APD handles SXSW crime more efficiently