AUSTIN, Texas — The Austin Police Department (APD), along with the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) and the Travis County District Attorney's Office, announced 17 new suspects have been charged in connection with the so-called "street takeovers" that happened across Austin in February.
During a press conference Thursday afternoon, Austin Police Chief Joseph Chacon said that the investigation has revealed even more activity than he was aware of during APD's Feb. 21 update on this ongoing investigation.
Chacon said that a total of seven "street takeover" events occurred on the night of Feb. 18 into the morning of Feb. 19 – a higher number than APD previously reported. The takeover events began as early as 6 p.m. Friday and continued as late as 2 a.m. Saturday. They ranged as far south as the 4800 block of US 290 West and as far north as Howard Lane at Heatherwilde Boulevard.
Chacon said the most widely publicized of the incidents, on South Lamar Boulevard and Barton Springs Road, was actually the third event of the evening.
Chacon then announced that 17 new suspects have been charged in connection with the incidents, in addition to and separate from previous arrests announced in February. The 17 suspects include two juveniles, who will not be named, and 15 adults who Chacon said will be identified and their specific charges listed.
Chacon said 11 of the 17 suspects have been taken into custody, and law enforcement officials are working to get the remaining six into custody as well. Chacon said the suspects range from 32 years old at the oldest to 15 years old at the youngest.
Many of the suspects involved in the takeovers came from cities outside of Austin, according to Chacon, including Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and others.
As of now, the 17 suspects are charged with the following 38 charges:
- 7 obstruction of a highway (state jail felony)
- 9 obstruction of highway with reckless driving exhibition (class A misdemeanor)
- 7 engaging in organized criminal activity (state jail felony)
- 7 deadly conduct (class A misdemeanor)
- 2 reckless driving (class B misdemeanor)
- 2 evading in a motor vehicle (third-degree felony)
- 1 count of unlawful use of fireworks (second-degree felony)
- 1 count of unauthorized use of motor vehicle (state jail felony)
- 1 count of unlawful possession of firearm (filed by DPS)
- 1 count of theft of a firearm (filed by DPS)
Chacon said that in addition to these criminal charges, there have also been seizures of some of the vehicles involved. He added that additional charges may still be filed.
Later on Thursday, police released the identities of some of the suspects who have been arrested: Jerry Antonio Gore Jr., Corey Latavyan Hicks, Keegan Alec Lopez-Stiba, Duwan Tay Mabin, Kevonte McConnell Hawkins, Corry Jerome Murray Jr., Julien Arnes Putmon, Genesis Brenda Ramirez and Keshun Jamal Semere.
Police are still looking for six of the suspects, five adults and one juvenile. The five adults are: Jose Leonidas Carcamos, Cristian Hernandez, Edward Pittman Jr., Ryan Ray Lacour and Corey Austin Lamb.
“The events that occurred in the evening of February 18 – they disrupted our community, they garnered much attention and they were clearly not good for public safety," Chacon said during Thursday's press conference, adding that all of the agencies involved "pulled together on this investigation to move quickly and decisively and ensure there was accountability for those who committed these acts."
Texas DPS Director Steve McCraw echoed Chacon's statements, thanking the agencies involved and stating that this type of incident is not a problem specific to Austin.
"It’s organized criminal activity across multiple jurisdictions. It’s clearly a significant threat to the public. It won’t be tolerated in Austin – it’s not going to be tolerated anywhere in the particular state, plain and simple," McCraw said. "If you’re involved in a street takeover, we’re certainly going after you. We’re going after your vehicle. You’ll ... be arrested, prosecuted, your vehicle seized and we’re going after your driver’s license as well, for street racing. So, clearly, it’s a no go for Texas.”
Travis County District Attorney José Garza said that his office expects to receive criminal cases related to the 17 new suspects over the next week. He noted that because of the early communication between agencies, his office is in "a strong position to ensure these individuals are held accountable."
In addition to the APD and the DPS, the following law enforcement agencies have also been involved in the investigation, which officials are calling "Operation Burnout": Travis County Sheriff's Office, New Braunfels Police Department, San Marcos Police Department, San Antonio Police Department, Bexar County Sheriff's Office, Hays County Sheriff's Office, Live Oak Police Department, Selma Police Department, Rolling Wood Police Department, Westlake Police Department, Houston Police Department, Harris County Sheriff's Office, Dallas County Sheriff's Office.
Chacon stated the help of these organizations has greatly aided APD in this investigation.
"I think that this investigation really, our community felt it very strongly when the incident happened. And we knew … there needed to be a coordinated response on this. APD did not do this on our own. We kind of took the lead on it, but, certainly, we owe a lot to Texas DPS, to the governor’s office, to the task force and all the different agencies I listed before, as well as our district attorney, for the support that has been lent on this," Chacon said.
If you see any suspicious activity surrounding possible "street takeover," you are asked to report it through iWatchTexas. You can submit information through the iWatchTexas website, app or by calling 844-643-2251. DPS says this should be used for non-emergencies only.