UPDATE: Judge Rejects UIW’s ‘Governmental Unit’ Status Claim

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University of the Incarnate Word campus. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

University of the Incarnate Word campus. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

Lawyers for the Redus family and the University of the Incarnate Word (UIW) are waiting to hear from State District Court Judge Cathleen Stryker this week. By Thursday, she’ll have a ruling on UIW’s motion to dismiss the civil case based on the argument that the university, while still a private institution, is also a “governmental unit,” and therefore cannot be held liable for civil suits under the Texas Tort Claims Act.

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UPDATED at 11:15 a.m.: Judge Stryker notified attorneys Tuesday morning that UIW’s motion to dismiss the wrongful death lawsuit brought by the Redus family against the university and its former campus police officer Christopher Carter is denied. Download the statement here, which states:

“After considering the motion, the response, the evidence presented and the argument of counsel, the Court finds that the plea to the jurisdiction and motion to dismiss should be denied. It is therefore oredered that Defendant University of the Incarnate Word’s Plea to the Jurisdiction and Motion to Dismiss the Suit Against Cpl. Carter is Denied.”

Brent Perry, attorney for Cameron Redus’ parents, Mickey and Valerie Redus, also released a statement: “this latest loss in Court by UIW should be taken as a sign that the case should proceed forward, and UIW’s continual delaying tactics need to come to an end.”

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Cameron Redus. Courtesy of the Redus Family.

Cameron Redus. Courtesy of the Redus Family.

Robert Cameron Redus, a UIW honors student who went by his middle name, was fatally shot on Dec. 6, 2013 outside his off-campus apartment by UIW police officer Christopher Carter after he followed the student there and attempted to arrest him on a drunk driving charge. Carter’s account of how he came to shoot Redus five times, who was not armed, at close range was contradicted by the official autopsy. Redus’ parents, Mikey and Valerie Redus, filed a civil lawsuit in May 2014, after months of frustration with the lack of transparency with the criminal case – which has not yet been presented to a grand jury.

Carter resigned from the UIW police department in January, a little more than a year after shooting Cameron. During that time, Carter was on paid administrative leave.

The legal maneuver, argued in court last week, seems to clash with UIW’s continued claim that because it’s a private institution, it should not be required to release to the family, media, or public a key piece of evidence – the audio recording of Carter and Cameron’s six-minute confrontation recorded by Carter’s uniform microphone. 

Brent Perry, the Houston lawyer representing the Redus family, said the motion for dismissal is merely a stalling tactic – not unlike the unsuccessful attempt to move the civil case to federal court last year. “They just got several ways to delay the lawsuit and this is one of them.

“They want to be treated like a publicly funded law enforcement agency – and they’re not,” said Perry, “We’re suing a private entity – they don’t have any special defense just because (UIW Police) happen to be called a police department.”

Brent Perry, lead attorney for the Redus Family, answers questions about Tuesday's ruling to remand the Redus case to state court. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

Brent Perry, lead attorney for the Redus Family, answers questions about Tuesday’s ruling to remand the Redus case to state court in 2014. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

Before the The Texas Tort Claims Act, it was nearly impossible to hold a government entity liable in civil court. The 1969 law basically provides a waiver to that immunity in specific circumstances.

The criminal case is still pending a grand jury review, Former District Attorney Susan Red, who was voted out of office in November, never presented the case or commented publicly on its status. Her successor, District Attorney Nicolas LaHood took office in January and has told local media that the case could go before a grand jury in late March. LaHood has met with Mickey and Valerie and has recently visited the crime scene – the parking lot of the Treehouse Apartments off Broadway Street in Alamo Heights.

An indictment by a grand jury would bolster the civil case.

UIW police officer Christopher Carter

Former UIW police officer Christopher Carter

“If he is indicted, it certainly makes UIW look worse,” Perry said. “Our argument is that no well-trained police officer would have done what Christopher Carter did … an indictment furthers that argument.”

At the end of the day, Perry is simply looking forward to starting the trial instead of answering motions

“They keep telling me what I’m claiming instead of dealing with the lawsuit,” he said.

From previous coverage:

Cameron, 23, was out celebrating the end of finals and the semester with friends the night of the incident. An autopsy report later showed that he was legally drunk and had traces of marijuana in his system. He was driving home to his off-campus apartment from a bar when Carter, who had left campus on a fast food run, said he noticed Redus weaving as he drove northbound on Broadway and decided to follow him, although he did not know the driver was a UIW student.

University officials have repeatedly claimed Carter had the right as a sworn police office to interrupt his late night food run to a nearby Whataburger and pursue Redus, even though he was off campus and did not know the driver was a UIW student. UIW officials have since defended Carter and the fatal shooting of Redus as justified, although Carter later left the force without any university explanation or disclosure.

There are inconsistencies in Carter’s version of events from the point he began to follow Redus north on Broadway through Alamo Heights, but what is not in dispute is that Carter attempted to arrest Redus outside his apartment as he exited his vehicle and a scuffle ensued. Carter said Redus resisted arrest and fought with him before Carter finally fired six shots at close range, striking Redus five times.

Carter described Redus as charging at him with a raised fist when he fired,  but the official autopsy determined that two of the shots were fired at point-blank range, one into Redus’ back and the other at a steep downward angle into Redus’ eye, the bullet exiting his lower neck, as if he were kneeling with Carter standing over him.

Neither Carter nor UIW officials have been willing to grant media interviews and address the various inconsistencies in Carter’s version of events.

The Redus family is frustrated with how slowly the criminal investigation has progressed, and what they see as stalling tactics in the civil lawsuit by attorneys representing the university.

“It has been difficult to wait this length of time, and we still haven’t heard the audio tape, we have no report on (his) clothing – nothing beyond the medical exam and the toxicology report,” said family spokesperson and family friend Mark Hall.

*Featured/top image: University of the Incarnate Word campus. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

Related Stories:

Read more about Cameron Redus’ life, death, and family’s lawsuit here.

DA LaHood Reaches Out, Meets With Redus Family

Open Letter to District Attorney LaHood

UIW Cop Who Fatally Shot Student Resigns

UIW Loses Bid to Move Redus Lawsuit

Groups Peacefully Protest UIW Handling of Redus Case

6 thoughts on “UPDATE: Judge Rejects UIW’s ‘Governmental Unit’ Status Claim

  1. IWU just cannot seem to stop making moves that makes it seem sleezy in terms of this event which should never have happened and which they think they should have no responsibility. They look more and more like bad citizens of the city.

    • No, no they can’t.

      You know what they say, if it looks like a duck, acts like a duck, and quacks like a duck…

      UIW is a sleazy institution that cares not a lick for the safety or future of its students, apparently. They’ve demonstrated as much in no uncertain terms.

  2. Thank you for the well written story and continuing coverage. When one sees how quickly events in other places like Ferguson and New York are addressed by the legal system, it makes this seem like a very long and unnecessary delay in getting to hopefully truth and justice. Rather than reporting just the daily details, your reporting gives readers a better understanding of the story from the beginning. Good journalism as well as providing some reassurance to know that others are keeping track of the facts and being persistent about bringing up the unanswered questions. Thank you.

  3. About time this case goes to trial. The out-of-control cop should have been charged, as well.

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