ROANOKE, Va. – The father of the man shot and killed by Roanoke police Tuesday afternoon said he wishes his son would have been in jail longer prior to the shooting, and wants to see major changes to the judicial system.
Charles Austin told 10 News his son, Chase Austin, might be alive today if previous run-ins with the law had been handled differently, and not ended with him being repeatedly released from jail after serving minimal time. Austin's most recent charges according to online court records include assault and battery on an officer, grand larceny of a motor vehicle, and selling and possessing drugs.
"This might not have happened if the judicial system was working the right way," Charles Austin said. "The last three charges he had, he should not have been back on the street yet. How did he get out so quick? This may not have even happened, and I'm not passing the blame to anybody, it just needs to make sense."
He admits his son was troubled and does not want to hide that fact, but he wanted his son to get help, and instead said he was in a revolving door at the jail and did not receive the services he needed.
Chase Austin isn't the only person who has been in and out of that door. It's a problem the Roanoke City criminal justice system has been dealing with, like other cities across the country, acknowledged both by police and the judicial system over recent years, caused by uncooperative victims and witnesses, fears of retaliation, and drugs. This time it's come to a deadly end.
Virginia State Police said Austin had a stolen gun on him, was wanted on other charges unrelated to their run in with him, and pointed a pistol at an officer Tuesday at the Krispy Kreme off Hershberger Road. The police were called because Austin was banned from the store and had locked himself inside a bathroom at one point.
What happened after the gun was pulled is still unclear, but the incident ended with a yet-to-be named Roanoke police officer shooting Austin in the parking lot, before he ran toward the shopping center and eventually collapsed. He was transported to Roanoke Memorial Hospital where he died shortly after. Virginia State Police are investigating the incident per Roanoke's protocol for an officer involved shooting, and described Austin's behavior as confrontational when dealing with police who arrived for the trespassing call.
Charles Austin said the pain of the social media rumors hurt him and his family just as much as the shooting itself.
"I hope people out there can listen and stop and think before they start posting things on social media," Austin said fighting back tears.
He doesn't dispute the facts police have presented to him so far, but said he wants to know all the facts before he makes any conclusions. He's angry that others are choosing to fill in their own blanks or listen to hearsay instead of what those tasked with getting to the bottom of it have to say.
"My son wasn't a saint, but his family doesn't deserve to suffer, and if the officer was in the right in what he did, I can live with that, but if it wasn't, we have to take that stuff into account," Austin said. "I feel (for the officer) and his family, but we have to get all the facts before people pass judgment. We can't pass any on my son, we can't pass any on the officer."
Charles Austin said Chase got mixed up in drugs, and he was doing everything he could to help. He doesn't understand why Chase got out of jail almost every time with no real time served.
"What is going on with our court system for somebody to have this many charges and be put back on the street for this to happen," Austin said. "I wouldn't want my son in jail, but if he was there, this might not have happened."
Chase Austin leaves behind two young children. His family said they've been unable to see his body, a point his mother, Lori Hall, is especially upset about. She also said the gossip is devastating, but she said her son has never been violent.
Charles Austin said at this point he wants people to wait to find out what happened before they continue to spread hurtful gossip about the situation. And as addiction grips more families each day, the Austin's aren't shirking blame for Chase, but rather asking for empathy.
"My son wasn't a saint, I'll be the first to tell you, and his family tried to help him, and we tried to depend on the judicial system to help us get him steered in the right direction," Austin said. "But it didn't work and everybody has to remember he has a family, and he has children, and it's not right."