AUSTIN, Texas — The two officers involved in the shooting death of a 27-year-old man two years ago did not violate any departmental policies, the Austin Police Department announced Thursday.
In a statement shared with the KVUE Defenders, APD Chief Joseph Chacon said that Officers Gabriel Gutierrez and Luis Serrato acted accordingly during the January 2021 incident.
Read APD's full statement below:
"The Austin Police Department's (APD) Internal Affairs Division, with oversight from the Office of the Oversight (OPO), has completed the administrative investigation related to the Officer-Involved Shooting that occurred on January 5, 2021, involving Officers Gabriel Gutierrez and Luis Serrato. The involved officers' respective chains of command, including Chief Joseph Chacon, have reviewed the thorough investigation, including the available evidence. Additionally, both the OPO and the Community Police Review Commission (CPRC) reviewed the incident and provided a recommendation to Chief Chacon before he made any disciplinary decisions. The CPRC’s advisory role is integral to transparent, thorough, and effective public safety processes and policies, and APD thanks them for their service.
It is necessary first to note that whenever an incident occurs in which someone loses their life, it is a tragedy. We extend our deepest condolences to the Gonzales family on their loss.
The Department respects the decision by a Travis County Grand Jury not to indict Officers Gabriel Gutierrez and Luis Serrato. Chief Chacon considered the Grand Jury's decision and the recommendations provided by the Office of Police Oversight and the Community Police Review Commission.
Chief Chacon has determined that Officer Gutierrez and Officer Serrato will not face discipline due to this incident. Both will resume their full-time roles as police officers with the Austin Police Department.
These decisions are not made quickly or lightly. The investigation of the incident revealed that when Officer Gutierrez came into contact with Mr. Gonzales, he acted as a private citizen who defended himself in the face of a deadly threat. Ofc. Gutierrez was not in a police vehicle or police uniform. Further, the investigation showed that Officer Serrato's actions in response to the incident were in accordance with APD's policy and training. The Department recognizes the sensitive nature of the officer-involved shooting and is aware of the high level of public interest. The officers involved acted according to their training and APD policy.
These types of incidents significantly impact our community and the officers who serve. Knowing this impact, APD strives to provide timely information about these critical incidents.
Police officers have challenging jobs. To safely and effectively perform the job, the men and women of APD must have the community's trust. APD works daily to maintain and earn that trust."
The Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas (CLEAT) provided the following statement regarding the decision:
“Our members, Officer Serrato and Officer Gutierrez, acted in accordance with state law and APD policy. They were no billed by a Travis County Grand Jury and have endured a two year investigation into their actions on that day in 2021. It is past time the officers be absolved of any wrongdoing and be able to continue serving as Austin Police Officers.”
Austin police say the January 2021 shooting involving Gonzales started over a road-rage encounter with Gutierrez in southeast Austin. Gonzales was in the car with his infant son and widow when he pointed a gun at Gutierrez while at a stoplight, according to police.
Gutierrez was off duty at the time but shot and injured Gonzales.
After Gonzales pulled over in the southeast Austin neighborhood, on-duty officers arrived and repeatedly told Gonzales – in both Spanish and English – to step away from the car.
When Gonzales reached inside the car, Serrato shot and killed him. Gonzales’ family believes he was trying to check on his baby.
Police said they later found a gun in the car.
Three months after the shooting, APD released body camera video that showed the moments leading up to Gonzales' death. (Warning: The video below contains graphic content.)
In December 2022, a Travis County grand jury declined to issue any criminal charges against Gutierrez and Serrato.
In the years since Gonzales' death, his family has been outspoken in their calls for Gutierrez and Serrato to be fired. Both Gonzales' girlfriend and his parents have also filed lawsuits against Gutierrez and Serrato and against the City of Austin.
As recently as this past Tuesday, the family rallied with the Austin Justice Coalition (AJC) to call for the officers' termination.
The Gonzales' family sent KVUE the following statement regarding APD's disciplinary decision, through their attorney:
"Alex Gonzales’s parents, Elizabeth and Alex Gonzales, Sr. are disgusted with Chief Chacon and have no faith in his ability to control the rogue officers in his department. They have been let down by the Austin Criminal Justice System which has abdicated its responsibility to hold the officer who murdered their gravely wounded and unarmed son accountable under the law. Officers Serrato and Gutierrez acted with reckless disregard for the safety of innocent bystanders and with murderous intent to kill Alex Gonzales despite that he posed no threat. The claim that Serrato did not know Gonzales was wounded is false and part of a narrative to excuse Alex’s murder.
Chief Chacon has not once disciplined an officer under his command for excessive force: not Officer Serrato for the wanton killing of an unarmed and wounded Alex Gonzales; not Officer Gutierrez for the reckless shooting of an innocent bystander at the scene; not Officer Chris Taylor who has been indicted for the murder of Mike Ramos; and not Officer Roland Rast who has been indicted for the wanton shooting of Sam Kirsch during the 2020 Memorial Day protests of police excessive force. The decision not to fire Officers Serrato and Gutierrez for their reckless and wanton conduct is a travesty and adds insult to the injury that Alex Gonzales’s parents have suffered at the hands of the Austin Police. This is in stark contrast to how the city of Memphis handled a killing this month by rogue officers. They were swiftly fired and then promptly indicted for murder in less than a month. It took the Travis County District Attorney and the Chief of the Austin Police Department two years to fail to take any action.
Alex and Elizabeth Gonzales call on the City of Austin to fire Chief Chacon. It’s time to make a course correction. Chief Chacon cannot lead the Austin Police Department with the character required because he is unable or unwilling to discipline the officers under his command for excessive violence and even murder. His abject failure to take any adverse action against any officer involved in excessive force speaks volumes. It’s time for the City of Austin to replace him with a chief of police who can bring some semblance of accountability to a police department that has operated far too long with impunity. Alex and Elizabeth Gonzales further call on District Attorney Jose Garza to resubmit the case of Officer Serrato’s murder of their son Alex to a new Grand Jury, this time by a seasoned prosecutor capable of presenting the evidence and obtaining an indictment. Enough is enough. If the City of Austin cannot control its police department, and it appears it cannot, its time for the Department of Justice to investigate."
Chris Harris, policy director of the AJC, and Chas Moore, executive director of the AJC, released the following statements:
“Alex Gonzales, Jr. should still be alive with his family and raising his child. His killing was unjustified and the civilian oversight groups agree,” says Chris Harris, Policy Director of the Austin Justice Coalition. “If any one of the 18 bullets police fired had struck Alex’s baby, we all know those officers would be fired, if not facing prison time. It is by pure luck that Alex’s baby was unharmed. Lucky reckless police are still reckless police and they threaten our community with their continued employment.”
“Today we grieve once again with a family torn apart by police violence. We grieve for a mother and father that have had to bury their son, for sisters that lost their brother, for a partner now forced to raise a child alone and for a child that will never know their father,” said Chas Moore, Executive Director of the Austin Justice Coalition. “On top of it all, we grieve with a family told by their City that their loss was just, and that those responsible will remain officers of the law with all the powers that brings. While we grieve, we continue to fight for a future where Black, brown and poor people live long full lives free of state violence and with true accountability for those that cause harm and healing for those that survive it.”
The AJC also told KVUE's Isabella Basco that they will hold a rally in remembrance of Gonzales. The rally will also be in support of Tyre Nichols' family in Memphis. The rally is expected to occur in the next few days.
Chacon released the following statement regarding Tyre Nichols death: