Austin authorities’ attempt to mow a negligent homeowner’s lawn led to a violent standoff with police and a SWAT team
Police say they tried for months to get the homeowner at 10600 Pinkney Lane to cut his grass, which was becoming a safety issue. On Wednesday, out of options and patience, they arrived with a warrant and some contractors to finally mow the lawn.
The work was going fine for about an hour, they say, until shots rang out.
“At approximately 10.21am, one of our officers over the radio indicated that shots had been fired at them from someone inside the house,” Austin Police Chief Joseph Chacon said at a press conference on Wednesday.
At that point, Mr Chacon said, the police and contractors “backed off” to safety, and a SWAT team was called.
About 20 minutes later, the SWAT team, mental health officers, and a crisis negotiator arrived. For several hours, police said, they tried to get in touch with the man inside the house, but were unsuccessful.
“They were using, for the main part, the public address system, because they could not make contact with him in any other way,” Mr Chacon said.
At 3.19pm, more shots were fired, this time at officers behind the house. In response, police in front of the house sent in a robot to clear the scene.
That’s when things got chaotic.
“The robot could observe inside the residence that a fire had been started and was beginning to spread quickly throughout the house,” Mr Chacon said. “More gunshots were heard at that point. It was unclear exactly where the suspect was and where he was firing.”
At this point, officers retreated from the flames and bullets, and tried once more to communicate with the man inside. Meanwhile, the fire grew.
“At this point, they could see that the house looked like it was fully engulfed in flames,” Mr Chacon said.
After about 20 minutes, police called in the fire department, figuring the man had probably died by this point in the fire.
He had not. At 3.39pm, Mr Chacon said, the garage door opened and the suspect emerged from the flaming house “with weapons in hand.”
At that point, the SWAT team shot the suspect, and he fell to the ground.
Officers then separated the man from his weapons, brought him away from the fire, and sent him to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 4.01pm.
Meanwhile, the Austin Fire Department put out the flames.
Police have not released any details about the suspect, except to say that he was a man in his 50s who resided at the house. No one was injured in the standoff besides the suspect himself, they said. So far, it is unclear what started the fire. The incident is still being investigated.
At his press conference, Chief Chacon thanked all those involved in handling the standoff.
“This was a multi-agency response,” he said. “The Austin Fire Department, Travis County SWAT, Travis County Constables, and… our Code Enforcement were all involved in this and ultimately were all a part of making this scene safe.”