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Student Stopped, and Shot, By Campus Police After ‘Erratic Driving’

Student Stopped, and Shot, By Campus Police After ‘Erratic Driving’

Robert Cameron Redus was a senior who had twice made the Dean’s List at Incarnate Word University (UIW) in San Antonio. Instead of looking forward to his graduation in May, his parents and four brothers found themselves attending a vigil in his memory at the UIW convention center in December 7, the day after Redus was shot by a UIW police officer, Christopher J. Carter.

Police are still investigating exactly what happened between Redus and Carter. The young man’s death raises the question of whether — in an age that has witnessed the tragedies at Virginia Tech, Northern Illinois University and other schoolscampus police should carry firearms.

What Happened in the Early Hours of December 6th?

Carter is one of 17 police officers employed by UIW, according to university spokeswoman Debra Del Toro; none carries a taser. The officers are licensed and trained as peace officers and, under the Texas Education Code, can “enforce state and municipal laws outside the campus jurisdiction in a variety of instances.”

According to My San Antonio, Carter was in a marked UIW pickup when he noticed Redus speeding and driving erratically in the early hours of December 6. Redus was not on campus when Carter saw him. With his emergency lights on, the officer followed Redus to the parking lot of his residence, Treehouse Apartments. Then, as Alamo Heights police Lt. Cindy Pruitt relates, Carter and Redus got out of their vehicles and “became involved in a struggle” during which the officer radioed for help and Redus was shot multiple times. An ambulance was called and  Redus was pronounced dead at the scene.

Mohammad Haidarasl lives in a ground-floor unit in Treehouse Apartments. Right before he heard four to six gunshots, he recounts hearing a man “say, ‘Oh, you’re gonna shoot me?’ like sarcastic almost,” according to My San Antonio. Another neighbor, Bon Laurena, told the Express News that

“I just heard the shouting, and it woke me up. I heard ‘Stop!’ then four or five shots after that. I looked out, and I saw him bloody, lying on the ground.”

At the memorial, family and friends remembered Redus for “his outgoing spirit, helpful attitude and affection for everyone he met.” Kyle Leihsing, who has known him for about three years, described him as “one of the most level-headed people I’ve ever met,” adding that “what I have heard is completely counterintuitive to what I have known him to be.” Redus had been the co-valedictorian of his high school class in Baytown, Texas; Sara Davis, who is from there, says that Redus was “not an aggressive person at all,” so the account of him struggling with a police officer “doesn’t make sense.”

Should Campus Police Carry Guns?

UIW officials say that Carter, who has been placed on administrative leave, had an “extensive law enforcement background.” As both My San Antonio and the Express News say, in an eight-year law career in Texas, Carter had held nine jobs at eight agencies, “rarely” staying with one agency for more than a year. Carter’s neighbors describe him as having a “confrontational personality,” according to the Express News.

Questions have arisen about whether Carter, as a campus police officer, had the jurisdiction to stop Redus when he was off-campus. University of Texas at San Antonio criminal justice Professor Michael Gilbert tells the Express News that Carter was acting within his authority. While emphasizing that it is too soon to make any conclusions about the case, Gilbert comments that “one piece of information is ‘suspicious’ — whether the officer’s life was in danger.” Police are still investigating whether Redus had a weapon. If he was unarmed, the likelihood of his altercation with Carter “being life-threatening would be questionable,” as Gilbert says.

In the absence of concerted efforts to reform laws about background checks and other gun control measures, we’ve heard calls round the nation for campus police to carry guns, on the grounds that doing so would, some say, have made a difference in the tragedies at Virginia Tech and other schools.

It is the case that — and noting this just a few days before the anniversary of the Sandy Hook tragedy – college (in the U.S., at any rate) and schools are not what they used to be. But do campus police on every college campus need to carry firearms? Are such unnecessary at a campus (like the one where I teach in Jersey City, New Jersey) where police sirens routinely interrupt class and police have raided apartments a few blocks away?

Or does outfitting campus police with guns carry the very serious risk — too clearly illustrated by Redus’ death — that students could end up dead for “erratic behavior”?

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168 comments

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12:32AM PST on Dec 18, 2013

great!

8:05PM PST on Dec 17, 2013

Last time I checked, erratic driving led to a night in jail, if it goes that far. How stupid must this so-called "peace officer" be, to not only sentence this kid to death for it, but be an instantaneous judge, jury, and executioner?

7:14PM PST on Dec 17, 2013

That trigger happy campus police officer better prove he murdered the student because he felt his life was in danger. However, if the student was unarmed, he should pay to the full extent of the law for the murder he committed.

8:22AM PST on Dec 16, 2013

thanks

10:11PM PST on Dec 15, 2013

Thanks for the post.

7:02AM PST on Dec 15, 2013

Hey, folks, tazers are not the answer either. Those things can also be deadly. How about intensive training for campus police in adolescent behavior (on the part of the students, not the police themselves)? If you work on a campus, you should be able to handle drunk or disorderly students by nonviolent means.

6:50AM PST on Dec 15, 2013

While our State Department is busy lecturing the Ukraine on their repressive tactics towards protesters, we are sliding ever further as a military state. It really is past time to demilitarize our city, county, and campus police and to seriously curtail handguns ownership. We are as repressive a country as many in the developing world. As far as that goes, ask the people from the Occupy Movement about how our police compare with Ukraine's. I see little difference.

7:42PM PST on Dec 14, 2013

I feel the student campus officer was wrong. I don't think he believed his life was in danger, he just let his power go to his head and as a result a young man was murdered. You don't murder someone for driving erratically or for talking back to you. Campus police are given too much power. They should be trained to only use deadly force if their life is in eminent danger, or the life of others.

5:11PM PST on Dec 14, 2013

Noted

12:05PM PST on Dec 14, 2013

If Carter was employed as campus security what gave him the right to go off campus to confront an erratic driver. He could have called the police or traffic officers to handle the situation.

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