AUSTIN (KXAN) — An Austin man is charged with manslaughter after he shoved a man during an altercation in downtown Austin, which ultimately led to his death.
Police say on March 15, Spencer Carlton, 52, was at the Dogwood Bar on West Sixth Street during South by Southwest with his wife and some friends when he found out that a man had been going around and groping women at the bar, including his wife. While Carlton didn’t know the man who was doing the groping, he decided to follow him out of the bar, according to an affidavit. Court documents indicate surveillance video from inside the bar showed a man named Jerry Summers touching Carlton’s wife’s chest as he walked by.
When Carlton caught up to the man, later identified as 54-year-old Jerry Don Summers, in the 500 block of West Avenue, he said “he shoved Summers in the chest with both hands. Summers fell backwards and his head struck the ground.” Police say the fall rendered Summers unconscious. A friend of Summers told police “the force with which this gentleman [Carlton] plowed through my friend—JD—it made JD literally sail backwards.” Summers died from his injuries on March 19.
When police spoke to Spencer at the scene, he appeared to be in shock and said Summers was “very intoxicated,” according to the affidavit.
An autopsy was performed by the Travis County Medical Examiner and the manner of death was ruled a homicide as the result of blunt head trauma.
“You shouldn’t gamble with your own freedom and with another person’s life,” Lt. Justin Newsom, with APD’s homicide unit said. “What Texas law does not give you is the ability to retaliate, to pursue someone who has fled after committing an assault and use force against them.”
Carlton was charged with manslaughter on March 28. He posted a $10,000 bond and was released from the Travis County Jail on Tuesday.
“Mr. Carlton had no intention of harming anyone. Accounts that he ‘plowed into’ the gentleman are not accurate. Once it was clear to him the individual was injured, he attempted to assist directly and by urging others to call 9-1-1. He stayed on scene at the side of the injured man and cooperated with the police,” said Carlton’s attorney Sam Bassett in a statement.
A memorial for Summers is being held Tuesday afternoon. “Today is a day to celebrate to celebrate Jerry’s life, and that’s we are going to do today with family and friends,” said Summers’ friend Jamie Varisco.
Varisco gave KXAN permission to reference one of Summers’ sons, Taylor Summers’ Facebook post, which describes the week since his father’s passing as the hardest in his life.
“My father wasn’t a perfect man and he had his flaws just like everyone else has,” he wrote. “But in no way did he deserve what happened to him.”
The post continued on to say, in part, “I have always loved my dad, I still do, and I will forever. I miss his laugh, his smile, and the way that he hugged me and told me that he loved me. He hasn’t left my mind, my thoughts nor my heart since this all happened. And thankfully, he never will.”
“We’re obviously pretty distraught”, Summers told KXAN over the phone Tuesday night. “We want justice for my father and to make sure that it’s done in appropriate manner.”
APD says the case should serve as a reminder for people to always call police to handle these types of situations.
“For people that, you know, go to SXSW or go to Sixth Street, you’re there to have a good time. You’re not seeing things through the same lens that we’re looking at things because this type of incident happens all the time. It doesn’t always result in someone dying, so it doesn’t make the press,” APD Lt. Newsom said.
In 2013, Preston Sharpnack 26, was convicted of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon for punching 38-year-old Matthew Casey in downtown Austin in September 2012. The punch caused Casey to fall and hit his head on the concrete; he died a week later. Sharpnack was sentenced to 10 years in prison. Sharpnack says he was defending a friend after they asked Casey for money.
Harold Hickey, 26, was convicted of manslaughter in the death of James Camp, 57, who was homeless. In December 2011, surveillance video showed Camp getting pushed to the ground and hitting his head. He died a few days later to the injuries he sustained from the fall. Hickey was originally charged with murder but the charged was reduced to criminal negligent homicide. The judge sentenced him to deferred adjudication and probation for five years.
Eric Skeeter, 35, was convicted of manslaughter in 2009 after he punched Nikolas Evans, 28, fllowing an argument at a club downtown. He was sentenced to a 10-year suspended sentence and allowed probation.
Jeremy Anderson died in 2007 when he was punched by 32-year-old James Baker. It is believed that Anderson and another male were leaving the Sixth Street area when they became involved in an altercation with three men. During the altercation Anderson was struck and fell to the ground. Baker was originally charged with manslaughter but the charge was reduced to aggravated assault in a plea agreement. He received 10 years probation with 180 days in jail.
In the same year, Kurtiss Colvin assaulted David Morales and killed him. Colvin was originally charged with manslaughter but the case was refiled as a aggravated assault, which the jury found him guilty on. He was sentenced to a 10-year suspended sentence and 10 years probation.