Man indicted on felony charges for assaulting woman in Deep Ellum

A Dallas County grand jury has indicted the man caught on video assaulting a woman in Deep Ellum on four charges.

Austin Shuffield, 31, is now facing two felony charges for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and unlawfully carrying a weapon and two misdemeanor charges of assault and obstruction of justice.

A witness recorded cell phone video of Shuffield striking L'Daijohnique Lee on March 21. The 24-year-old woman herself was initially charged, but the district attorney refused the case against her. A special prosecutor was brought in to handle Shuffield's case.

Speaking on behalf of L'Daijohnique Lee, civil rights attorney Lee Merritt says he is pleased with the grand jury decision to indict Shuffield on felony charges. Shuffield’s attorneys say they are shocked and stunned and feel the grand jury was sending a message outside of the law.

According to Dallas police, Lee said she stopped her vehicle because she had been driving the wrong way on Elm Street. Shuffield then got out of his truck to ask her to move out of the way because she was blocking the parking lot exit.

Lee told police she moved her vehicle into the parking lot. Shuffield then got out of his truck and there was an argument between the two. He pulled out what looked like a handgun.

Lee said she tried to call 911, but he knocked it out of her hand. The video appears to show the woman strike Shuffield. He then punched her five times in the head before kicking her phone away.

Attorneys Scott Palmer and Rebekah Perlstein defending Shuffield on the four charges.

“We are absolutely stunned that the aggravated assault was true billed as a case,” Palmer said.

“I think the impression that we had going in was that both the detective and the district attorney’s office that’s not been recused does not believe that this was an assault with a deadly weapon,” Perlstein said.

His attorneys say Shuffield put the gun in a pocket or waistband before striking Lee.

“In the video, you can clearly see Austin Shuffield brandish a firearm. They’re right he put it away because he took it out and he wielded it first,” Merritt said. “I think felony indictments were appropriate. I honestly would have liked to see hate crime charges pursued as well. I understand the hate crime charges are difficult to meet.”

The obstruction and retaliation charge stems from Shuffield slapping a cell phone from Lee's hand.

“She took out her phone and she told him that she was gonna call the police,” Merritt said. “It is illegal for you to smack her phone away. That was a crime. That was obstruction.”

Shuffield’s attorneys say the obstruction law has never been applied this way. They feel the grand jury was sending Shuffield a message.

“All of the cases are there and that you guys can work it out in the courtroom, which is what we’re going to do,” Perlstein said.

Both sides say the video supports their position. What a jury sees in the same video will determine Shuffield’s innocence or guilt.

No trial date has been set. The obstruction charge is a new one, and a warrant could be issued for his arrest. Shuffield’s attorneys were moving to keep him out of jail on bond.