Senior U.S. District Judge David Alan Ezra rejected a legal move by the University of the Incarnate Word to move the Cameron Redus wrongful death lawsuit from state to federal court on Tuesday, a legal victory for the parents of the honors student who was fatally shot outside his Alamo Heights apartment by a campus policeman last year.
UIW officer Chris Carter has been on paid administrative leave since the shooting, which occurred on Dec. 6, 2013. District Attorney Susan Reed has not spoken publicly about the case and when it will be presented to a grand jury, but next Friday, Dec. 5, will mark one year since Carter shot Redus five times at close range.
An official autopsy appears to contradict Carter’s claims that he shot Redus as he was charged in the course of a physical struggle as the student resisted arrest. One shot appears to have been fired into the student’s back, and another through his eye, exiting his lower neck, as if Carter were standing above Redus and pointing his weapon down at him as he fired.
“My family and I are very gratified with the judge’s decision this morning,” said Mickey Redus, Cameron’s father. “As you know, throughout this process, our objective has been to find justice for our beloved son. Today’s decision brings us one step closer in that process.”
Judge Ezra ruled that the federal courts have limited subject matter jurisdiction under the U.S. Constitution, and thus are the wrong venue for a case that includes allegations of wrongful death, gross negligence, and other violations of state statutes.
Cameron, 23, was allegedly driving erratically after an evening of semester-ending bar hopping with a friend when Carter, returning to campus from a nearby fast food franchise, decided to pursue him north along Broadway to his apartment complex. A confrontation ensued when Carter moved to arrest Redus. Carter said the two began to struggle over the policeman’s baton, which he said he lost control of at one point.
Another resident in the complex heard the unarmed Redus ask mockingly if Carter was going to shoot him. Moments later, he did, firing six times, five of the bullets striking the unarmed student who died at the scene. UIW officials have since defended Carter’s actions as justifiable, claiming he feared for his life.
University officials also have defended Carter’s decision to pursue the vehicle, even though he was on an off-campus meal run and did not know the driver was a student. UIW claims its officers have legal jurisdiction to patrol and police the Alamo Heights community. Carter himself has come under scrutiny after it was disclosed that he has worked for at least eight different employers in the last 10 years, seldom holding a job for long.
UIW and the Alamo Heights Police have sought to prevent an audio recording of the altercation between Carter and Redus from being released to the media or the public, and have refused requests to discuss the discrepancies between the autopsy report findings and initial incident report provided by Carter, which was supported by the Alamo Heights police. The vehicle’s forward camera that would have recorded a video of the fatal shooting was not functioning, according to UIW.
“This court, after careful and lengthy consideration, finds that the allegations in the plaintiffs’ petitions do not give rise to a federal cause of action,” Ezra said during the brief hearing. “I’m sure and confident that both the plaintiff and defendants will get a comprehensive hearing of all issues in the state court.”
Attorneys for the Redus Family, including lead attorney Brent Perry, will now seek a trial date in state court, unlikely this year.
“We’re going to make things happen sooner rather than later, that’s been our goal the whole time,” he said.
Ezra also ruled that UIW’s motion to move the case to federal court was not without legal cause, and therefore UIW will not pay the Redus Family’s attorney fees for the federal hearings.
“Given the complexity of this issue and the absence of Fifth Circuit (Court) direct precedence, the court does not find that the removal was objectively unreasonable and therefore (awarding) attorneys fees (to the Redus Family) is unwarranted.”
It did delay the process by about five months, Perry said. “I’m not saying they didn’t have a legal argument – they used a legal argument to get it delayed.”
The disposition of the recording – which includes audio taken from a microphone worn by Carter and video taken from the rear-facing video camera in Carter’s police vehicle – will be decided in state court.
“The audio will eventually be released and when we get to state court we’ll push for that,” Perry said.
Read more about Cameron Redus’ life, death, and family’s lawsuit here.
The Redus Family has received permission from UIW lawyers to hold a candlelight vigil on Dec. 6, the anniversary of Cameron’s death, on campus. Details are still being worked out between the family and UIW and will be released soon.
*Featured/top image: William Redus (left) walks out of the federal courthouse with his brothers and parents, Valerie and Mickey. Photo by Iris Dimmick.