It's been about 11 months since Robert Cameron Redus, 23, was shot and killed by University of the Incarnate Word police officer Chris Carter during an off-campus traffic stop. No criminal charges have been filed and the civil lawsuit filed by the honor student's parents against the University and Carter is slowly working its way through the justice system.
On Monday morning, visiting Senior U.S. District Judge David Ezra of Hawaii will hear arguments for and against moving the civil lawsuit to state court, beginning at 10 a.m. in Courtroom #5 at the U.S. District Courthouse, 655 E. Cesar E. Chavez Blvd.
UIW filed a motion to move the case to federal court from state court on June 4, a legal move that may be part of a strategy to delay the case and encourage a settlement. A hearing is not required for a defendant to file such motions and the federal caseload is severely backlogged. Case in point: The original hearing date was Oct. 30, but was pushed back to Monday, Nov. 17.
Plaintiffs are awarded much smaller financial damages in federal court, another possible reason for UIW's motion. The Redus' filed a motion to move the case back to state court on June 26. Monday's hearing will address this motion.
"There's been a lot of unnecessary delay and we're ready to have court move the process along," said Mark Hall, a Redus family friend and spokesperson who has been handling media for Cameron’s parents, Valerie and Mickey Redus. "Once this (gets to state court), we're told that things should speed up."
The main motive of the lawsuit, Hall said, is to find out what really happened – to find justice for Cameron. Since there has been no movement on criminal charges against Carter or release of information from the criminal investigation, he said the Redus' attorney advised them that the most effective way to discover evidence that the police and UIW have was to file a civil lawsuit.
"Discovery, so far, has only happened to the degree that each side agrees. We want to get into the situation where the judge demands it," Hall said. "Discovery" is the legal term for the process in which each side obtains evidence from the other: testimony, documents, physical evidence, etc.
"We really don’t know any more than we did nine to 10 months ago,” said Cameron's father, Mickey. "We still believe that the justice system is going to work, we’re just trying to be patient.”
The Redus' have been waiting to hear the audio recording made with Carter's department-issued microphone, which captured the sounds of the six-minute altercation on Friday, Dec. 6, 2013, that left Carter relatively unscathed and Redus with five bullet wounds, one of which entered through his back, another through his left eye. One shot missed.
According to the autopsy report, Redus had been legally intoxicated with a blood alcohol content of .155, and his blood contained a faint trace of marijuana. He was driving drunk. University police officers have the authority to pull drivers over for such offenses, but it's unclear how the incident escalated from a traffic stop in an apartment complex parking lot to a deadly shooting of an unarmed honors student. UIW officials have repeatedly defended Carter's actions.
(Read more about the autopsy report and Carter's seemingly incongruous version of events: Autopsy Report Raises Troubling Questions in Fatal Shooting of UIW Student.)
"We don’t know what kind of emotional roller coaster (the hearing) will be or if any progress will be made,” Mickey said, looking at a photo collage of his son's life at his home in Baytown, Texas. "Almost a year and still no closure. It just doesn’t seem to end ... but we feel like we owe it to him to move forward.”
A representative from the District Attorney's office could not be reached for comment before publication, but Hall said a representative with that office said the family would be notified of any movement on the criminal case.
"We extracted a commitment that they will notify us, but that was made before the election," he said. Neither he nor the Redus family have reached out to Nicholas "Nico" LaHood since he replaced Susan Reed as District Attorney after winning the Nov. 4 elections.
"I’m guessing that nothing will happen until the first of the year (2015) with the change in the DA’s office,” Redus said, but "waiting has been the most frustrating part."
Two public awareness protests were held during the summer and fall, organized by UIW parents and students. The signs called for justice and scrutinized UIW handling of the shooting. The Redus' did not personally participate in the rallies, keeping their distance from UIW pending the lawsuit. The peaceful participants hoped to remind the community that justice has still not been granted for Cameron.
The Redus family sincerely appreciates "all the love and support that so many people have shown us and continue to show us," Mickey said. "Our faith in God helps us face each day."
People forget things like this all the time.
Cold weather has a way of transporting you through time and space, bringing back memories just like the smell of a familiar recipe can. For those close to Cameron, especially for his family, his death was not a year ago. It happened yesterday. It happened an hour ago. It's fresh. Tragic anniversaries bring with them tiny milestones that trigger the strangest, saddest memories. The trees turn grey. Smell a wool sweater. Walk down a familiar street. Then you lose your friend all over again.
Read all coverage of the Cameron Redus case here.