Frustrated after five months of talks with university officials that failed to produce answers to questions about their son’s fatal shooting or changes in campus police practices, the parents of slain honors student Cameron Redus filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the University of the Incarnate Word on Tuesday.
(Download the original petition here.)
UIW police officer Christopher Carter was also named as defendant in the lawsuit. Houston attorneys Brent Perry and Mason Herring filed the suit on behalf of parents Mickey and Valerie Redus, charging the university and Carter with gross negligence.
The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages. The Redus family said their decision to file the lawsuit was not about money, but to seek justice in the senseless killing of their son and to protect other UIW students from suffering a similar fate.
The Redus family stated in an email:
Our hope for the last 5 months has been to reach a reasonable and amicable settlement, and to effect changes in the UIWPD policies and procedures that would ensure that no other family experiences the anguish we are suffering with Cameron’s loss.
We have been patient. We have exhausted all other options. We believe the future safety of the UIW family and the general public are at risk until comprehensive changes are implemented.
Our further goals are to know exactly what happened Dec. 6th, hold accountable those responsible, and to provide resources to build Cameron’s legacy which he began but we fervently desire to continue.
UIW President Lou Agnese has been out of the country for much of the year on a sabbatical and world cruise with his wife Mickey.
The university has released a statement from UIW Chancellor Denise Doyle:
… Our initial review supports our belief that a court of law is the appropriate venue for experts to testify about the events that ended in the death of Cameron Redus. By the time the lawsuit is heard in court, the investigations that have been conducted by the Alamo Heights Police Department, the Texas Rangers and the District Attorney’s office will be made public. Anticipating litigation in this matter, we hope now that the lawsuit will bring together all of the critical pieces of information that will shed light on this tragic episode.
Redus was fatally shot five times by Carter outside his off-campus apartment at about 1:30 a.m. on Dec. 6, 2013 after allegedly struggling with Carter, seizing and hitting him with his baton, and ignoring repeated orders to stop resisting arrest. UIW and Alamo Heights police have declined to release an audio tape of the confrontation that they say documents Redus resisting arrest and justifies Carter’s actions. A police vehicle video camera, standard issue for patrol cars, was not functioning. Carter was not armed with non-lethal weapons, such as pepper spray or a stun gun.
Carter was on duty but off campus that night, leaving a nearby Whataburger with his to-go order when he said he began to pursue a speeding vehicle heading north on Broadway Street. Why Carter engaged in the pursuit when he was off-campus and had no reason to believe the driver was a UIW student has never been explained, although university officials have stated defensively that Carter is a sworn peace officer and legally permitted to act as a law enforcement officer off campus.
One of the lawyers representing the family disputed that assertion in a statement released Wednesday to the Rivard Report.
“UIW police officers do not have authority to act off of campus except in very limited circumstances, such as if they see a felony being committed,” said Brent Perry. “They don’t have authority to enforce rules of the road, but the university has said Carter had that authority and they are wrong.”
Under the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, police officers employed by private universities do not have the authority to make off-campus traffic stops, according to Perry.
Carter told Alamo Heights police and UIW officials that he acted after witnessing the vehicle’s driver weaving and strike a curb, yet he made no effort to stop the vehicle along Broadway. He did follow Redus into his Alamo Heights apartment complex, however, and it was there that Carter confronted the student. Why he didn’t allow Redus — who had safely exited his vehicle and was walking toward his apartment — to simply enter his apartment is one of many unanswered questions. It appears Carter moved to arrest and handcuff Redus without first engaging in any of the normal law enforcement protocols used when a suspected drunk driver is stopped.
Carter’s work record as a police officer is marked by a string of frequent job changes over nearly a decade, with Carter often lasting only one year before changing employment. His reputation among students on the UIW campus was that of an overly aggressive, out-of-shape officer.
The Bexar County Medical Examiner’s toxicology report showed that Redus was legally intoxicated with a blood alcohol content of .155 and that his blood contained a faint trace of marijuana after a night of bar hopping with a friend to celebrate completion of UIW semester finals.
During the struggle, an unarmed Redus was shot five times at point-blank range by Carter, who fired six bullets in total. Redus was shot once in the back and once from above through the eye, according to a coroner’s report finally released in March, more than three months after the autopsy.
The long-delayed autopsy results contradict Carter’s version of events that night, and also contradict the account offered by Alamo Heights Police Chief Richard Pruitt at a press conference following the shooting. Pruitt’s account now seems based entirely on Carter’s account of events rather than any independent and professional investigation at the scene. Alamo Heights police either did not know or ignored the obvious evidence that Redus was shot in the back.
UIW officials, Carter and Chief Pruitt have failed to publicly address the physical evidence that contradicts the official version of events that evening.
A Texas Rangers spokesman said the state police forwarded the agency’s investigative findings to Bexar County District Attorney Susan Reed, who has not publicly acknowledged any grand jury review of Carter’s actions that night. With the passage of so much time, the Redus family fears the case is not receiving a serious review by Reed’s office.
The university’s failure to address issues surrounding Carter, UIW police department procedures and practices, and its unwillingness to address the serious concerns of student government leaders has cast a pall over the semester on campus. Students have condemned university officials and the campus police on social media sites.
Graduation ceremonies are scheduled for Saturday, May 10. Plans to award an undergraduate degree posthumously to Redus are in place.
“At this time, we are focusing on our commencement ceremonies scheduled for this weekend where we will honor all of our 2014 graduates including Cameron Redus,” stated Chancellor Doyle.
*Featured/top image: A photo of Robert Cameron Redus posted to a memorial Facebook page in Redus’ honor.