I need to start with a Boomer Alert because the above headline is a bit dated. Baby Boomers will almost certainly recognize “just the facts” as the motto of Police Sergeant Joe Friday from the TV cop show Dragnet. I don’t mean to endorse Joe Friday here; I wasn’t really a fan of his. He was not quite my role model type during the 1960s and 1970s. The term “just the facts,” however, best captures what I’m trying to do with this part of our Austin Homicides series.
Since the beginning of the year I have been compiling data about homicides in Austin. My primary source of information is police reports or press releases that the Austin Police Department (APD) does on each murder. They state the name, age and race of the victim. When there are witnesses to the crime the reports give brief descriptions of what they saw, including descriptions of the suspects. When someone is charged the releases give the name, age and race of the suspect, or suspects. Sometimes the suspects provide information which is included in the reports. In addition to the APD reports, I have read many media reports, but they tend to rely on the same sources that I describe above. I have also read a number of obituaries.
So this article relies primarily on those APD reports and seeks to simply report the data therein. In some cases I sought further information from APD, mainly to fact check what I compiled from the reports. APD, however, declined to answer specific questions, including refusing to verify the number of suspects they have arrested. Instead public information representatives for APD said that I should file Open Records Act requests for any further information that I need. Since that can be a very time consuming process, I instead chose to rely on information already publicly released by APD — as already described.
Sadly it has been a challenge to keep up with all the murders in Austin. Nonetheless I compiled and studied all the information I could obtain. Now, I present to readers compilations of much of the data. Harkening back to the Joe Friday quote, I look at this as just presenting the facts. Some of the data will be controversial. Some people I have talked to while doing this story have advised me against presenting all the data because of controversies that might ensue. But, that goes against my core. How can it be wrong to present accurate information or the most accurate information that is available about still ongoing topics?
In my view Joe Friday was serious about just wanting the facts, but he sometimes worked in some commentary. I will try to limit my commentary, at least in this particular installment, to comments about whether data should be published or not. My general position is that the facts should be put out there.
Overall I am trying to just present facts I have gathered in my research in the hope of adding context to the tragic rise in murders and other violence that we are seeing not only in Austin, but in many other cities around the country.
(Shortly before the Independent went to press another murder was announced by APD. It was Austin’s 51st murder of 2021. We will discuss that particular tragedy in brief below, but the numbers and charts in this article are built around the 50 murders.)
Gender of Victims and Alleged Perpetrators
Of the 50 murder victims, 42 were male and eight were female. Perpetrators are even more imbalanced toward men. Women are charged, or suspected, in only two of Austin’s murders. One was arrested with her fellow, male, guardian, in the case of the baby Isabel Rios. And, one woman is accused of killing a man after an argument in a car.
- In the case of the baby Isabel Rios, a male and female guardian are charged.
- The sole woman charged alone, at least for now, is Lashell Tynek Linton, a 22-year old Black woman accused of murdering Jose Franklin Rodriguez after a dispute in a car on Mearns Meadow in the Rundberg-North Lamar area. Witnesses reported multiple people fleeing the scene, but, to our knowledge, Linton is the only one accused.
- Hispanic females are disproportionately represented among the female victims, with five having been murdered in Austin this year. Those include: young Rios; Amanda and Alyssa Broderick, the Mom and daughter allegedly killed by the Amanda’s ex-husband/Alyssa’s father; Lidia Carapia-Hernandez whose 32 year old son is charged with murdering her; and 21-year old Kaylin Price who was 16 weeks pregnant when she was shot downtown, allegedly by a juvenile.
- The victim in Austin’s 51st murder this year is also an Hispanic woman, 33 year old Delilah Guzman, who, according to an APD release, was shot by an intruder in her apartment at 8100 North MoPac.
Chart below illustrates gender of victims in 2021 Austin homicides through August 17, 2021
- The other women killed were: Dr. Katherine Lindley Dodson, murdered by a fellow doctor in her West Austin office; Natalia Monet Cox, killed by a man she had dated; and 45-year old Amanda Morrison, whose husband police say confessed that he had beaten her to death. (All three were discussed briefly in Part 1).
Chart below shows gender of alleged perpetrators in 2021 Austin homicides through August 17.
Murder Weapons and Methods
Those like Mayor Steve Adler who talk about the proliferation of guns (see Part 1) have a strong point. In Austin’s 50 murders, a gun was the murder weapon in all but eight cases. That’s 84% with guns as the murder weapon.
For the record the other methods of murder were:
- three stabbings;
- two blunt force traumas;
- one strangulation;
- one man who died the next morning from blows sustained when he tried to break up a bar fight; and
- one person who was run over repeatedly by a small car in a convenience store parking lot.
Race and the Austin Murder Victims
In many of the American cities with spiking murder rates the most frequent victims are African Americans. In Austin, so far in 2021, however, the most frequent victims are Hispanic. The race and ethnicity of victims is as follows.
- Hispanic – 20
- Black – 17
- White – 10
- Asian – 2
- South Asian – 1
One approach is to compare these numbers to the proportion of the population, but that has shortcomings. One of the shortcomings is that not all murder victims, or perpetrators, are from Austin. Nonetheless it can be instructive and add to understanding.
If that is done:
- Hispanic deaths at 41% come out more than five points above their roughly 34% share (according to the City of Austin) of the population.
- Black deaths by homicide (34% of the total), however, are significantly higher than the Black portion of the Austin population, which is just less than eight percent;
- Whites, with 20%, are well below their 48% of the population;
Different methods are used in different media outlets and other institutions when categorizing the Asian American population. Asia is a very big place. We chose to use the categories Asian and South Asian. The terms are somewhat imprecise, but South Asian refers to people with origins in India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Afghanistan. while Asian refers to people with roots in the countries further north or east of India like China, Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and Myanmar.
The City of Austin does not distinguish between Asian and South Asian in their population numbers. If the two are combined, they now constitute 6% of victims, below the nine percent reported in recent census numbers. (Population numbers come from latest 2020 numbers from the federal government, reported by the City of Austin. The Census Bureau has broadened the ability to report as mixed race and that accounts for some of the balance, although an exact number was not given in the City report.
What might be to some the most controversial element of this article is the alleged perpetrators and specifically their racial makeup. We will categorize perpetrators into three categories. The first category will be people who have been charged in the murders. According to APD press releases and reports, police have arrested a suspect, or suspects, in 27 of the 50 cases.
The second category is murder suicides i.e where one person kills another and then kill themselves. There were two murder suicides. Because a perpetrator has been named in both the Austin cases and the cases appear to be closed, we will include the perpetrator in such cases in the category of cases where someone has been charged or determined to be the perpetrator. That makes a total of 29 cases where someone has been charged, or where there was a murder suicide and the perpetrator has been determined.
Additionally, there are cases where no one has been arrested but witnesses gave descriptions. Sometimes these witnesses were also victims of the violence inflicted by the perpetrator, but survived. We will first list data on these cases separately, then add them to the category where someone has been charged or determined to be the murderer and list that total as well.
Now, I want to discuss the reluctance, or even refusal, in some sectors of the media to report the race of perpetrators. The police keep data on the race of murder victims and suspects for a wide variety of reasons. The media have long reported these numbers. In more recent journalism, however, there is an apparent reluctance to report the race of perpetrators. An example of what I mean appeared in a July 18 Austin American-Statesman article. That article discussed the local and national spike in homicides. Therein, the Statesman paraphrased a criminal justice “expert,” as saying, that “many of those falling victim to violent crimes are young Black and Hispanic men.”
That is true. By our account, 16 of the 50 Austin murder victims were Black men and 15 were Hispanic men. Also, one African American woman was killed and five Hispanic females.
The paper, however, I’m guessing out of political caution, did not mention anything about the race of alleged perpetrators. How can that be complete reporting? Beyond just being incomplete journalism, this could lead to a number of potentially false possibilities — in various directions — for readers to imagine.
It’s also instructive to look at the entire passage in which this paraphrase appeared. As already noted, in their apparent angst, the two Statesman reporters, or perhaps their editors, summarized their criminal justice expert as having said, “he’s noticing many of those falling victim to violent crimes are young Black and Hispanic men. . .” Then, in mid-sentence, the Statesman switched to paraphrasing “social justice experts” who, in the Statesman’s telling, characterize the high number of Black and Hispanic male victims as “a trend social justice experts say is linked to minority groups not having equal access to career opportunities and health care, all factors exacerbated by the pandemic.”
To be clear, the whole sentence, (which to repeat is a paraphrase and not a quote), reads, “Herrmann [the criminal justice expert] said he’s noticing many of those falling victim to violent crimes are young Black and Hispanic men, a trend social justice experts say is linked to minority groups not having equal access to career opportunities and health care, all factors exacerbated by the pandemic.”
OK. I think it may well be true that young people with less career opportunities and poorer health care are statistically more likely to be murdered, and that this was exacerbated by the pandemic. I’m going to guess, however, that the Statesman’s “social justice experts” were not talking about victims, but instead trying to explain why a disproportionate number of Black and Hispanic youth are involved in violent crime.
The Statesman article was not the only place where I have seen this type of omission, but it was one of the most contorted in doing so. In this article we are going to do what numerous publications are reluctant to do and report the race or ethnicity of both the victims and the alleged murderers. While that might be controversial in some quarters, we believe it is sound journalism and consistent with most all principles of reporting data. Also, it’s difficult to even begin to solve a problem if some of the data cannot be reported.
So here are the numbers in the 27 cases where someone has been arrested and charged, plus the two murder suicides, also represented on the accompanying chart. It should be noted that in three cases more than one person is accused. In the list and chart below we include each person that is charged in the total. In the case of Stephen Broderick who is charged with killing three people, we only report him as one suspect.
Black – 21
Hispanic – 9
White – 3
Asian – 0
South Asian – 1
The murders where witnesses have described suspects, but no one has been arrested break down like this:
Black – 4
Hispanic – 2
White – 1
Asian – 0
South Asian – 0
If the cases with descriptions of suspects but no arrests are added, the total of suspects comes to 41. That breaks down like this:
Black – 25, 61% of suspects
Hispanic – 11, 27%
White – 4, 10%
Asian – 0
South Asian – 1, 2%
Before moving on I feel compelled to note — consistent with a just the facts approach — that the disproportionate number of Black men allegedly involved in the Austin murders has roots in historical and continuing discrimination and inequities — dating through the entire history of the country. I’m referring to higher levels of poverty, historical discrimination in lending for homes and businesses, poorly funded schools, police violence, and discrimination in the criminal justice system. All this, and more, results in lower levels of opportunity for many African Americans. Many Hispanic Americans also continue to suffer from historical inequities, particularly in Texas, where the majority of Hispanics are Mexican Americans. (In the data on 2021 Austin murders, while Hispanics are second in the number of alleged perpetrators, the percentage of alleged Hispanic perpetrators is below the Hispanic share of the population.)
It is also very important to note that the mostly young men engaging in these crimes make up only a small percentage of Black men or Hispanic men.
None of this is meant to excuse any individual actions or bad choices today, in particular not murder, but to acknowledge the complexity and roots of the problem.
Perpetrators and Victims
Now, we combine the two above categories into an additional category, the race of the perpetrator and victim in each individual case. In Part 1 of this series Coach Greg Padgitt of Mesabi Range Junior College in Minnesota (where Austin murder victim Javone Hodges was to play football) was quoted speaking with sorrow about Black people killing other Black people. That is indeed one of the leading types of murders. (Most of the information contained in the bullets below can also be found in the accompanying charts. I included both formats)
- In the 38 cases where a suspect has been arrested or described by witnesses, 10 allegedly involve a Black person or persons, killing another Black person. That is the biggest category when looking at race of perpetrator and race of victim.
- The second biggest category is Black people accused of killing Hispanic people, with nine. That includes a Black woman accused of killing an Hispanic man. (In this calculation Stephen Broderick is counted in each of the murders in which he is accused.)
- One Black is accused of killing an Asian man and an Hispanic man is accused of killing another Asian man. Another Black man is accused of killing a South Asian man.
- In the third largest category seven Hispanics are accused of killing other Hispanics.
- One Hispanic man is accused of killing a Black man. Another Hispanic is accused of killing a White man. And, an Hispanic man is accused of killing a man of Asian descent.
- The fourth highest category of perpetrator-victim is whites killing whites, a total of four. That allegedly included a man killing his wife, a son killing his Dad, a man shot in his NW apartment along with his wife (who survived) by an assailant witnesses identified as white; and a man killed during some sort of confrontation on Todd Lane.
- No whites are accused of killing members of any other race.
- Two Black men and one Hispanic man are accused of killing Whites.
- Hispanics are the second largest group of perpetrators, but their percentage of perpetrators in Austin’s 2021 murders, 25%, is less than the estimated Hispanic share of the population, which is 34% of the Austin population.
The chart below shows the race or ethnicity of the alleged murderer(s) followed by the race or ethnicity of the victim. (In this case Stephen Broderick is counted each time he is accused of killing someone — 2 Hispanics and 1 Black person per APD records.)
Ages of victims and perpetrators
When it comes to age perpetrators are largely clustered among young people while victims cover a wider range — although young people are disproportionately represented among victims as well.
- Of the 50 Austin murder victims, one was two years old.
- Nine others less than 20 years old.
- Fifteen of those murdered were between 20 and 25.
The rest can be found on the chart below.
Age of Perpetrators
As stated earlier, much of the information contained in the bullets below can also be found in the accompanying charts. I included both formats.
Using the same age categorizations, here’s a look at the age of those alleged to have committed murder in Austin this year. Keep in mind that while the base number above is 50 — because all the people murdered are known — the base number for perpetrators is different. First, in 13 cases no one is yet charged and/or descriptions of suspects are not available. Also, in a few cases more than one person is charged in a murder. Given all that, the total number of people charged, according to figures available to us, is 35.
- Of the 34 alleged murderers, eight are less than 20 years old — almost a fourth. Another 11 are between 20 and 25.
- So 19 of the 34 people charged or suspected in local homicides this year are younger than 26. That’s 56%.
Once again the rest of the numbers can be found in the chart below.
Now, we will combine the age and race numbers.
- Of the eight alleged perpetrators below 20 years old, five were Hispanic and three were Black.
- In all but one of the murders alleged to have been committed by Hispanics under 20 that victim was another young Hispanic.
- Of the three murders alleged to have been committed against Blacks under 20, one was of another young Black person, another the white tourist Douglas Kantor killed on Sixth Street, and the third an under 20 Hispanic man.
- Among the alleged perpetrators aged 20 to 25, 10 of the 12 alleged murderers are Black youths. Of those, eight are cases where Blacks are accused of killing other Blacks. It should be noted that in one of these cases four young Black men are charged, three of them between 20 and 25; the other is 27.
- The other two alleged perpetrators between 20 and 25 are Hispanic. In both cases a young Hispanic man is accused of killing another young Hispanic man.
- The 26 to 30 category only features one case. As noted in the above bullet, one Black man accused along with three younger Black men in the murder of another young Black man.
- Among alleged perpetrators in their 30s, four are Black, three are Hispanic and two White.
- The two Whites in their 30s are charged with killing other white people; one man killed his Dad, and in a separate case a man is charged with killing his wife.
- The three charged Hispanics are in two separate cases; a couple is charged in the murder of the baby Isabel Rios and a 32 year old man is charged with murdering his 50 year old mother.
- In the four cases involving alleged Black perpetrators in their 30s, two are accused of killing other Blacks, and two of killing Hispanic men.
That’s all the facts for now.
In Part 3 I examine whether it is possible, as a society or as a City, to analyze and find solutions to slow this wave of tragedies — especially given our deep divisions and polarization.
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