The family of slain University of the Incarnate Word (UIW) honors student Robert Cameron Redus, fatally shot by UIW police officer Christopher Carter during an off-campus traffic stop in December 2013, were handed a legal victory in their wrongful death lawsuit against the university and its former campus policeman when the Fourth Court of Appeals rejected the private, Catholic university’s appeal to be considered a “governmental unit.”
Appeals Court Justice Jason Pulliam delivered the opinion on behalf of the three-judge panel that heard arguments from UIW and Redus family attorneys for and against the immunity claim two weeks ago. Pulliam cited a “want of jurisdiction,” as the main reason for rejecting UIW’s claim. Only governmental entities are allowed to claim immunity in such cases. The appellate court found that UIW does not meet the criteria to designate itself a government entity.
“I can’t say I’m surprised with the result,” said Redus family attorney Brent Perry. He was, however, pleasantly surprised that the decision came so soon. “(Appellate court) decisions can take several months.”
Download the court’s full decision here.
After the ruling, Perry said he and his team can now begin the process of collecting evidence to go to trial: investigation reports from the District Attorney’s Office, depositions from Carter and UIW officials, crime scene photos from Alamo Heights Police Department, and more. The Redus family filed the wrongful death suit against both UIW and Carter in May 2014. Multiple pre-trial motions and appeals have been filed by UIW’s attorneys, including an unsuccessful attempt to move the case to federal court.
“We’re going to eventually have a trial on this case,” Perry said confidently.
Before the jury trial begins, however, he expects another motion from UIW that will claim Carter’s use of deadly force against Redus, legally drunk but unarmed at the time of the shooting during a traffic stop outside his off-campus apartment, was within his rights as a trained police officer with off-campus jurisdiction.
“(Police officers) have a lot of discretion,” he said. “But we argue that Carter had no right to use deadly force because Cameron wasn’t a serious threat to him.”
In an emailed statement, UIW stated that it “respects, but respectfully disagrees with the opinion”, and will ask the Texas Supreme Court to review the dismissal:
“Notwithstanding the conclusion of this opinion by the intermediate Court of Appeals, the University is engaged in a legal process that it is fully committed to see to its end. The University has understood from the beginning that the question of whether its Police Department is entitled to the same immunities as any other Police Department is likely an issue that would, and now likely will have to be finally decided by the Texas Supreme Court.”
The Texas Supreme Court decision in May in the false imprisonment case brought against Rice University established that university police officers are “officers of the state” and therefore have the right to challenge a trial court with an immunity claim, but it did not afford Rice University the ability to claim that it is a government agency.
The dismissed appeal is the latest of several motions and appeals filed by UIW that have delayed a jury trial, Perry stated in a news release. “In Federal Court, in State District Court and now before the Fourth Court of Appeals, UIW’s delay tactics have proven fruitless. Cameron deserves his day in Court; and the community has a right to know the true facts in this case.”
What Happened to Cameron?
On Dec. 6, 2013, UIW honors student Robert Cameron Redus was driving home on Broadway to his Alamo Heights apartment after a late night of bar hopping, celebrating the end of semester with fellow students. A blood test would later reveal traces of marijuana and that Redus was drunk. UIW police officer Chris Carter, returning from an after-midnight fast food run to a nearby Whataburger, said he decided to follow Redus after he saw him driving erratically. Carter followed Redus north on Broadway more than a half mile, making no effort to flash his lights, use his siren, or pull him over. He had no indication the individual he was following was a UIW student.
Redus turned off Broadway on to Arcadia Place, and into the Treehouse Apartments where he lived. Only then did Carter turn on his vehicle overhead lights and order Redus, who had exited his vehicle, to stop. The incident escalated into a struggle that ended when Carter fired six shots at close range and killed Redus, including one shot into his back and another from a sharply downward angle into his eye that exited through his neck. Carter testified that all six shots, five of which hit Redus, were fired as Redus charged him with an upraised fist.
Despite the forensic evidence that contradicted Carter’s version of events, a Bexar County grand jury under newly elected District Attorney Nicolas LaHood chose not to indict the officer. UIW officials and their attorneys have refused to release records in the case, and for more than one year withheld an audio recording and a vehicle rear camera video from the family and its attorneys as well as the media and public.
Carter, meanwhile, continues to apply for law enforcement jobs, but so far has not found anyone willing to hire him as an uniformed officer or for an administrative position.
*Featured/top image: A photo of Robert Cameron Redus posted to a memorial Facebook page in Redus’ honor.
Read more about Cameron Redus’ life, death, and family’s lawsuit here.