He was tased and his jaw was broken during a mental health crisis. Now he’s suing APD.

It was just after midnight and James Johnson was having a mental crisis.

Someone he knew — a loved one, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday — called the Austin Police Department in hopes of connecting him to mental health services.

Minutes later his jaw was broken.

Johnson filed the lawsuit in federal court against the three APD officers who responded to the August 2021 call, alleging they used excessive force. He also named the city in the lawsuit, arguing that its police training fosters a “culture of violence” and that its responses to mental health crises are “regrettable.”

The lawsuit identifies the officers as Brandon Salter, Katherine Alzola and Samuel Noble.


A photo of James Johnson in hospital after the incident.

APD declined KUT’s request for comment on this story.

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The city of Austin said Wednesday it had not been officially notified of the lawsuit, but an unidentified spokesman said it “stands.”[s] ready to defend the city and its officials in response to this lawsuit.”

APD bodycam video released by Johnson’s attorney, Jeff Edwards, shows Johnson in his apartment hallway with his hands raised while two officers drew guns. “I’m not a threat!” he tells the officers identified in the lawsuit as Salter and Alzola.

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Another officer, identified as Noble in the complaint, comes up behind Johnson and shocks him several times with a stun gun. Johnson hits the ground and then, the suit claims, Salter uses excessive force, hitting him several times in the head and finally breaking his jaw.

Edwards said the incident is indicative of a track record of clumsiness on the part of the department and that officers need to be disciplined and retrained.

“Not everyone the police meet is a criminal. Sometimes people just need a little help. Breaking the jaw of a young man and shocking him with a stun gun while he is face down on his stomach is not helpful. It is abuse and should not be tolerated,” Edwards said in a statement. “It is disappointing that the APD leadership does not understand this, but it is hardly surprising.”

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Johnson is seeking compensation for lost wages and medical expenses.

A 2018 audit found that APD did not consistently train officers to de-escalate on mental health-related calls, and that APD had the highest national rate of fatal shootings on those calls.

In 2021, the city expanded its 911 services to include mental health support. Shortly after encountering Johnson, APD began dialing 911 calls to ask if the callers needed mental health help.


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