Suspect accused of Deep Ellum assault could face more serious charges

Image 1 of 2

A woman assaulted in Deep Ellum this week retained an attorney who says the suspect should be facing more serious charges.

Video from a bystander caught part of what happened, including what appeared to be a gun in the suspect's right hand.

Austin Shuffield was charged with three misdemeanors for the assault.

Community activists are demanding stiffer charges -- felonies instead of misdemeanors -- against the man involved in the beating caught on video.

Dallas Police Chief Renee Hall is urging patience, and for more time for her detectives to gather additional information.

Ldaijohnique Lee, 24, walked out of Dallas Police Headquarters late Friday afternoon after speaking with detectives about the beating she took early Thursday morning in Deep Ellum.

Cellphone video from across the street captured the incident. Lee told police that she'd been driving the wrong way on Elm St.

In the process of pulling into a parking lot, she was blocking the way out for a bearded man and his pickup.

The two argued. He pulled out what looked like a handgun.

She said she tried to dial 911, but he put the gun away and then slapped the phone out of her hand.

She struck him, causing the man to punch her five times in the face, before he kicked the phone away.

MORE: Video shows man assaulting woman in Deep Ellum

Shuffield was later arrested and charged with charged with assault, interfering with an emergency request for assistance, and public intoxication. All misdemeanor charges.

"These charges need to be upped. These charges need to be adequate to what we have seen," community activist Dominique Alexander said.

On Friday, protestors gathered at the parking lot where the attack occurred.

They echoed the message from Lee's attorney, high-profile civil rights lawyer Lee Merritt, who released a statement demanding felony charges from the district attorney and police chief.

"It looks like a criminal offense from what I can tell and it looks like a serious criminal offense," Dallas County District Attorney John Cruezot said.

Cruezot said he has asked the police department for more information before presenting the case to a grand jury, and that more serious charges could be forthcoming, if, as it appears in the video, Shuffield brandished a gun.

It will also depend on the extent of Lee's injuries.

"The ongoing effects of what happened may cause more problems, and it may be instead of bodily injury, it may be serious bodily injury,” Cruezot added. "Whether this is an assault or an aggravated assault will depend on her condition and what happened to her. Whether there was a weapon involved in it or not.”

Chief Hall said she had not yet seen the video, but added that her detectives could also decide felony charges are warranted after gathering evidence.

“The district attorney and myself have a very great working relationship to date and we will make the necessary adjustments if we need to," Hall said.

Lee declined to talk about specifics of the case Friday afternoon, but her attorney is promising they will both have more to say about it in the near future.