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FULL INTERVIEW: Interim Police Chief Joseph Chacon speaks on officer response to Sixth Street mass shooting

Chacon said he couldn’t be more proud of his team of officers, citing training. He added that staffing shortages had no effect on response.

AUSTIN, Texas — Editor’s note: Days after the mass shooting, the Austin Police Department identified a suspect who had been charged in connection to the shooting. The Travis County district attorney and APD later dropped all charges against that person. KVUE has removed that person’s mugshot and name from all web stories.

Staffing shortages at the Austin Police Department “did not negatively impact” the department’s response to the mass shooting in Austin on Sixth Street early Saturday morning, Interim Chief Joseph Chacon said on Monday. 

Chacon said he couldn’t be more proud of his team of officers for their response. One person died and more than a dozen were injured in the late-night mass shooting. 

Chacon said the APD is facing staffing challenges but the department actually had extra officers on staff due to large crowds brought in from the ROT Rally.

“All of [the shifts], with the exception of one, which was missing two officers, all of them were staffed to 100%,” Chacon said. “So I had beyond my normal staffing actually, as well as the mounted patrol.”

The department is still weighing cuts that could potentially lead to the doing away of units like mounted patrol. Chacon said the importance of both the APD mounted patrol unit and lake unit, credited for saving boaters from falling over Longhorn Dam recently, is important for city leadership to understand.

“We've been very intentional in how, if we have had to bring people from specialized units back to patrol, looking at areas like our lake patrol and our mounted and other units that we have not done that to, that we continue to keep those functional because they are so important for public safety,” Chacon said.

When asked if Austin has a gun violence problem, Chacon said he thinks the city does. He said gun violence has increased since the department first started tracking data in 2015. He also added that the department's training on this type of situation has evolved.

Chacon said the department’s first responder trauma care course helped officers respond in a quick fashion when the shooting began early Saturday morning. The course gives officers training in first-aid and combat tourniquet response.

“I can’t tell you how many times that we have saved lives by placing a tourniquet or placing a chest seal or placing the gauze on people to stop bleeding from happening,” Chacon said. “This was just a big event in which lots of officers were doing it.”

Chacon said trainings like this one begin in the department’s cadet academy. APD resumed its cadet academy for the first time just this month. Chacon said the events of the last week in Austin will help remind the 100 cadets that they “really are the guardians of this community.”

The APD also used their own patrol cars to transport victims of the shooting to the hospital, including Douglas John Kantor, who died following the shooting. Chacon said this is “pretty unprecedented.” He cited EMS not being able to get to Sixth Street since it was so densely packed as the officers’ reasoning.

“Moments and seconds matter,” Chacon said. “They really needed to get those people to emergency medical care. That was obviously far beyond their capabilities right there. And they made the decision, and I’m glad that they did, to go ahead and use their own vehicle to do that.”

Chacon is currently the interim chief. He said he has applied to be the department’s permanent chief. The initial list of 25 candidates who had applied as of May 17 for the position was released last Wednesday.

“I know this department better than anyone else who might be applying, and I care so much for this department and for the community we serve,” Chacon said. “I would just be honored and would love the opportunity to lead.”

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