On the night of Friday, Dec. 6, University of the Incarnate Word (UIW) police officer Christopher Carter pulled over UIW student Robert Cameron Redus under suspicions of drunk driving. After a six-minute struggle, the traffic stop eventually led to a physical confrontation and the death of Redus. While the investigation is still ongoing, the incident has raised questions regarding campus police policies and student conduct.
Initially seeing Redus’ vehicle near the intersection of Hildebrand Avenue and Broadway while out getting food, Carter followed the car off UIW’s campus north into Alamo Heights, pulling into Treehouse Apartments on Arcadia Place. According to the Alamo Heights Police Department (AHPD) incident report written by officer C.D. Lopez, Carter attempted to radio in his location to the San Antonio Police Department (SAPD) during the incident, but miscommunication between the dispatcher and Carter resulted in a delayed response.
After pulling into Redus’ apartment complex parking lot, a scuffle broke out between the student and officer in which Redus is reported to have resisted arrest and proceeded to strike Carter with his police baton.
During the six-minute ordeal, Carter’s microphone recorded the audio of the incident, but video was not obtained due to adhesive issues with the patrol car camera. Alamo Heights Police Chief Richard Pruitt disclosed in a news conference that Carter told Redus 56 times to stop resisting arrest.
Pruitt told the press that Carter regained control of his police baton, and Redus charged the officer. At which time Carter shot his firearm six times, hitting Redus five times and killing him. Soon after, AHPD arrived on the scene.
The investigation is still ongoing along with the assistance of the Texas Rangers and the San Antonio District Attorney’s Office. The DA deferred Trinitonian inquiries about the ongoing investigation to AHPD, who in turn deferred to UIW and the Trinity University Police Department (TUPD). UIW declined to comment. At this time, the toxicology analysis of Redus is not available to the public.
According to the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, Carter was authorized to exit his jurisdiction in pursuit of a suspected drunk driver. However, according to TUPD Chief Paul Chapa, certain departments such as Trinity police maintain a no-pursuit policy if a vehicle exits campus due to associated dangers. TUPD officers are also required to activate an on-person camera during any interaction.
Since the shooting, Facebook groups and other social networking forums have been a place for questions and speculations regarding the incident, such as why warning shots or an intermediate weapon such as a taser were not utilized by Carter. Chapa explained that the evolution of handling a situation occurs in multiple steps.
“When an officer responds to a call, their presence is a sign of authority, and they are there to either help or contain a situation. Then the officer would go to verbal [instruction], giving demands, giving directions that they need this individual to do or to comply with,” Chapa said.
“When that doesn’t work, the officer would go to a hands-on approach to attempt to control the situation or someone with their hands. Then, they would go on to an intermediate weapon, which could be an ASP expandable baton or pepper spray or a taser or whatever intermediate weapon may be available. And then, to the firearm.”
According to Chapa, deadly force can be used in the protection of either the officer themselves or a third party if they feel that either is in danger. However, questions of warning shots pose other challenges.
“Warning shots are something that is not practiced just because of the danger of discharging your firearm and not knowing where the bullet goes. It has to go somewhere,” said Chapa.
Contrary to some student belief, all TUPD officers are also licensed to carry 40-caliber glock, semi-automatic pistols and must qualify with their weapons annually. Campus police are also equipped with ASP batons and pepper spray. According to Chapa, however, dealing with critical situations is a very small part of being a campus police officer.
“We are doing a lot of customer service and community engagement”¦the very small amounts of when we deal with those critical situations that involve intoxicated students, the officers are trained to deal with those types of situations,” said Chapa. “We aim to ensure that we are creating that environment for students so that when they make those mistakes there is a response that can turn these situations into learning experiences. That is important. Being a police officer in a university setting, you need to be able to understand that that is your role, a servant to the community versus a law enforcer. Are we in law enforcement? Yes, but the officers here are here to be part of the community, not apart from the community.”
According to David Tuttle, associate vice president for student affairs and dean of students, Trinity administration also sends out information to students in order to promote understanding of Texas State Law and campus policies.
“Our campus policies are value-based, and that is reiterated in letters that I send out every semester. Our policies are based on the respect of self, others and community,” Tuttle said. “When we talk about respect for others and community, that encompasses neighbors, faculty and staff.”
Tuttle explains how the campus community can do its part in promoting understanding, “We are trying to create a community where you don’t have to look up a policy to do the right thing. I think that is something that has to be generated throughout all the campus constituents”¦And [being a good citizen] includes promoting student accountability and pressures to adhere to university policies.”
Chapa echoes this idea of respect within the community, pointing to TUPD community engagement projects such as meetings with ResLife, bike registration, the annual alcohol awareness spring break campaign, student appreciation days and the recent stalking awareness seminar.
“We take [these initiatives] to ensure that we are creating that environment, creating that exchange between our student body to understand that yes, I do wear a uniform. I do have a badge, but my job is not to ensure that I am swinging a big stick to keep you in order,” said Chapa. “It is to be part of the community and helping to keep you safe”¦ the police department is here to ensure that we are part of the solution and not part of the problem.”
To prevent issues similar to the UIW shooting, Chapa suggests the utilization of the buddy system and promoting general understanding of state and campus laws.
“It’s important that we understand and know that when an officer asks you to do something that you should comply,” said Chapa. “When we are going out ““ and not just here but in the city of San Antonio ““ and [students] engage an officer off campus, it is important that they do the same because that expectation may even be greater, and they may not be as compassionate and understanding as we would be.”