A Texas detective was disciplined with a three-day suspension without pay for posting on Facebook that he was “glad” about the police shooting death of a naked, unarmed teenager and that he hoped the chief who fired the officer for the shooting “leaves soon.”
Austin Police Detective Jason Chiappardi, also the Austin Police Association secretary, says he plans to appeal his suspension because he wasn’t in uniform or posting under his real name when he made the comments.
Chiappardi was friends with Austin police officer Geoffrey Freeman, who was fired after shooting and killing 17-year-old David Joseph in January. A dash cam video shows that Joseph was naked and running in his direction but at angle where he appeared to want to run past him.
Freeman said he was in fear for his life because he suspected Joseph was under the influence of PCP, which he was taught gives people “superhuman strength.” An autopsy determined that Joseph only had marijuana and Xanax in his system.
In one comment, Chiappardi wrote, “My family and friends are glad to hear that the high school dropout drug using, neighborhood terrorizing, naked guy will never scare anybody else again.”
In another, he referred to Austin Police Chief Hubert “Art” Acevedo and his decision to fire Geoffrey Freeman for failing to use lethal force alternatives to subdue Joseph such as a baton, taser or mace, “It’s too fucking bad that the boss has no support for his officers. I hope he leaves soon.”
Freeman was responding to a call at 9:57 a.m. on February 8 regarding a “black male, tall, thin, wearing jeans, boxers who’d just jumped a fence and tried to chase a neighbor.”
Upon encountering Joseph, Freeman commanded “stop right there, man. Stop right there.”
It isn’t clear if Joseph was close enough to hear the command, but it was pretty clear he was unarmed, since he was naked.
A few seconds later, Joseph began running towards Freeman, although based on his trajectory, it seemed he intended to run past the patrol car.
Freeman panicked and yelled “Stop! Stop! Stop!” before shooting the teen several times, killing him.
After investigating the shooting, which we reported about in May, Chief Acevedo determined that officer Freeman violated five department policies when he fatally shot the teenager.
“We unanimously do not believe that his use of deadly force was justified,” Acevedo divulged. “Officer Freeman’s decision to draw his weapon when he exited his vehicle was unwarranted.”
Assistant Police Chief Brian Manley said Chiappardi’s comments about Acevedo were made out of frustration because he was friends with the fired cop.
“He and Officer Freeman were friends, and I think that he made his comments–from what I understand–out of just frustration and emotion at that time.”
But it was the morbid comments regarding Joseph that Acevedo said violated Austin Police Department policy regarding prohibited speech, expression, and conduct and “could potentially damage the reputation and professionalism of the Austin Police Department.”
According to a August 17 disciplinary memo included below, Chiappardi admitted in a meeting with Acevedo that he was referring to David Joseph under an account using a pseudonym and that the public and the department were aware he was an Austin Police Department officer when he made the posts.
Chiappardi’s suspension begins on August 22.
Austin Police Association President Ken Casaday responded to Chiappardi’s suspension by criticizing the policy saying the language in it was too gray and said the disciplinary measures handed down by the chief are too harsh, because Chiappardi wasn’t in uniform when he posted the comments.
“By not using his name, by not being in uniform, he did not feel like he violated policy,” Casaday said. “We look forward to doing the arbitration. Not because there wasn’t an issue with what he said but we’re interested in what an arbitrator would say about what First Amendment rights do officers have and not have.”
Casaday confirmed Chiappardi plans to appeal the suspension.
First Amendment rights attorney Robert Ranco commented on Chiappardi’s rights to free speech.
“He’s not going to jail, because it’s not illegal to say these things. But that doesn’t protect anyone from repercussions at their jobs.”
Fatima Mann, co-founder of the Austin Justice Coalition and friend of Joseph’s mother, called out Chiappardi’s comments in an interview with KXAN, who broke the story.
“I know his mother. Like . . . are you kidding me? How would you feel if you’re child was killed, and someone talked like that about your child, and someone talked like that about your son, your daughter, your brother, your sister, your mom, your dad, like that was a person,” said Mann. “How dare he hide behind a keyboard and say that. And how dare he say that he’s protecting and serving the community. When if you were doing that, you would never have even thought to say something like that to someone.”
Joseph’s mother read the comments and said she felt hurt Detective Chiappardi would say that about her son.
“To hear such things said about my son is deeply hurtful. Even after they shot my son, I thought better of the Austin Police Department.”
In 2003, according to the Austin Chronicle, Chiappardi was jailed and later indicted by a Travis County.grand jury for striking a man in the face with a drinking glass at an Austin bar. That charge was eventually dropped after witnesses gave conflicting stories about what happened.
In June, we also wrote about police union president Ken Casaday, after he sucker punched a man for petting a mounted patrol horse.
Chiappardi’s name on Facebook is now Jason Paul, using his middle name, and the URL has been changed to “FreeSpeech26.”