DALLAS - The man who was caught on camera punching a woman in a Deep Ellum was booked into jail again as Dallas police are recommending a felony charge.
Austin Shuffield, 30, is already charged for public intoxication, interfering with an emergency call and assault — all of which are misdemeanor crimes.
After further investigation, police filed an additional misdemeanor charge for unlawfully carrying a weapon on Thursday. The new arrest warrant is for carrying a weapon without a concealed handgun license. A grand jury will determine if Shuffield will be charged with felony aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.
Shuffield is accused of punching 24-year-old L’daijohnique Lee on March 21 in a parking lot along Elm Street. She told police that in the process of pulling into the parking lot she apparently blocked Lee’s way out. The two argued and then it got physical.
A witness captured cellphone video of Shuffield with a gun in his right hand. Lee told police she tried to call 911 but Shuffield slapped the phone away. The video shows her hit him once. He then punched her in the face five times and kicked the phone farther.
Community activists have demanded stiffer charges for Shuffield.
Dallas Police Chief Renee Hall urged them to have patience as detectives gathered additional information.
“Our detectives as part of our protocol and procedures investigated that case thoroughly by ensuring that we interviewed all witnesses, gathered all evidence and the additional video and now have added some additional charges,” Chief Hall said during a news conference.
Chief Hall said the grand jury will determine whether or not to indict Shuffield on the aggravated assault charge because there are some questions about how he used the gun and whether he pointed it at Lee as he slugged her in a parking lot.
“We're grateful that the Dallas Police Department did an investigation and come up with what we feel were the appropriate felony charges,” said Lee Merritt, Lee’s attorney.
But Merritt also feels it should not have taken a week to reach this conclusion because, according to police records, the responding officers saw the witness video of the incident before they arrested Shuffield.
“It’s unfortunate that it took so much time and protest community engagement to do what all citizens should expect to have equal protection under the law,” he said.
While it’s unclear how the video influenced the investigation, it did prompt protests and a week of people demanding there be felony charges.
Chief Hall said the officers do their work in a three-step process.
“The initial process is the initial arrest made by our officers. The second process is the investigation by the capers division. And the third process is to take those facts after investigating them and turn them over to the district attorney or the grand jury,” she explained. “And we don’t get to skip those steps because individuals would like us to. We owe it to our community. We owe to the people that are accused of these crimes and or victims of these crimes to give them a thorough investigation. And that is what we did.”
Chief Hall's reference to the capers division doing its work is the Crimes Against Persons Unit.
Attorney George Milner is not associated with the case. He said the video is pretty cut and dry.
“The penal code says use or exhibit. So by looking at the video, I clearly see that he has a gun which is ‘exhibited,’” Milner said. “Then the question becomes was he exhibiting the weapon during the commission of the crime? My legal opinion would be yes he is.”
According to police documents obtained by FOX 4, neither Lee nor Shuffield mentioned a handgun to the responding officers.
FOX 4 asked Lee if she saw Shuffield with a gun that night but her attorney did the talking instead.
“I'm not going to let her answer that, but yeah she saw the gun during the course of the attack,” Merritt said. “It is important in making out the case for aggravated assault that she saw the weapon, and she did testify to that.”
In the report, one of the officers noted finding a .45 caliber Glock when conducting a vehicle inventory of Shuffield's truck. The officer also found a knife.
In the report, Shuffield claims Lee hit him first and that he hit her back in self-defense. He never mentioned knocking the phone out of her hand.
“That video does not support self-defense, from what I see,” Milner said. “I don't know what he was thinking. We cannot hear the verbal interaction, which is going to be very critical.
And as the legal process plays out, Lee is getting her concealed handgun license. She said the violent confrontation has shaken her. She hopes Shuffield is punished to the fullest extent of the law.
“I've never thought I'd have to walk around with a gun. But after that, it makes me want to,” she said.
Merritt said he hopes there is additional bond against Shuffield and that he is monitored in if he makes bond. He also wants the district attorney to consider hate crime charges.
The second-degree felony carries a 2 to 20-year penalty.
Shuffield worked as a bartender in Deep Ellum. After the video of the beating spread on social media, the owner fired him and denounced his action.