A federal judge in Texas this week dismissed a manslaughter charge against a police officer who fatally shot an unarmed 32-year-old black man after an attempted bank robbery in 2013, according to the Washington Post.
U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel dismissed the charge against Charles Kleinert in the shooting death of Larry Jackson Jr. in Austin, Texas, on July 26, 2013. A grand jury indicted Kleinert last year.
In making the decision, the judge cited a little-known 1889 ruling that allows federal agents to be granted immunity from state criminal charges, according to the Post. Kleinert, an Austin detective, was also working on a federal law-enforcement task force.
The shooting occurred when Jackson returned to a local bank that he had visited earlier in the day but had left because it was on lockdown after a robbery attempt, the report says. Kleinert, 51, who the judge ruled was wearing his federal hat while investigating the bank robbery, began to chase Jackson after Kleinert questioned him and he began to run.
At the end of the pursuit, he shot Jackson in the neck. He told investigators that he accidentally fired his pistol and had intended to strike Jackson with the weapon. Yeakel agreed, determining that Kleinert "believed his actions against the 32-year-old 'were no more than was necessary and proper,' " according to The Guardian.
The decision was met with outrage by Adam Loewy, an attorney for Jackson's family, who said that he planned to respond by asking the Department of Justice investigate the process and the shooting, The Guardian reports.
"This is a legal technicality that will allow a killer to walk free," Loewy said Thursday evening. "It is one of the most horrendous moments in the history of civil rights in this country."
Kleinert was among 54 officers to be charged in fatal on-duty shootings between 2005 and 2014, according to a Washington Post analysis published earlier this year. So far this year, the report says, there have been more than 800 fatal on-duty police shootings that have resulted in charges against five officers.