Handcuffed teen who shot himself in patrol car has died
Austin Police say the handcuffed teen who shot himself in the head in a patrol car while being transported to police headquarters has died.
Police have identified him as 19-year-old Zachary Khabir Anam.
It happened Sunday afternoon in Downtown Austin at the intersection of Lavaca and 6th streets.
Investigators say Anam had earlier been taken into custody at Barton Creek Mall for shoplifting and possession of a controlled substance.
He had refused to identify himself, and officers suspected he may have had outstanding warrants, so they arrested him to take him to Austin Police Department Headquarters for fingerprints.
When the patrol vehicle was stopped at the intersection downtown, police say, Anam managed to pull a gun from his waistband and point it at his own head.
“A conversation occurred between the individual that was arrested and the officer that was transporting him. The individual in the back seat was discussing suicidal ideations,” Austin Police Chief Brian Manley said in a press conference Sunday after the shooting.
The officer inside the car used his radio to call for help. Police say officers tried to talk Anam down for about six minutes, but he shot himself in the head.
He was taken to University Medical Center Brackenridge in life-threatening condition. Austin Police announced Monday afternoon that he had died from his injuries.
Anam is a former student at Bowie High School. He graduated in 2015, according to Austin Independent School District.
Austin Police Chief Brian Manley said the case is under investigation and would not comment on whether proper protocol was followed.
The Austin Police Association Vice President confirmed that it is policy that officers check a suspect for a weapon prior to putting them in a police vehicle.
According to former police officer and active lawyer, Jamie Balagia, it is an officer's legal responsibility to make sure the person they arrest is safe.
"A cop missed a gun … unacceptable," said Balagia.
Balagia said there is no excuse for why a suspect managed to shoot himself in police custody.
"The officer obviously failed to discover a weapon during the frisk, if he even did one," said Balagia. "When I took control of an individual, I didn't care if the chief of police handed him over to me, I checked them. That's how you're trained."
Anam talked of suicide in the car and used the gun on himself, however Manley said an officer or bystander could have been injured.
Balagia said a wrongful death lawsuit could be in the City of Austin's future.
"I would think their lawyers are already preparing for it," said Balagia.
Anam was arrested in Buda last May on a drug charge. Austin Police also named him as a suspect in a string of burglaries in South Austin.
"The lesson to be learned here, especially in a time when police officers are being assassinated, officers need to double down on their safety," said Balagia. "There is a laxity here that never should have happened."
Austin police would not answer any questions Monday. Chief Manley will hold a news conference tomorrow at 1 p.m.