Michael L. Austin
A report of a suspicious man along a Kingsport street led to the deployment of Tasers and bean bag shotgun blasts by police, as the suspect allegedly brandished a knife while fighting officers and threw cinder blocks in their direction.
According to an incident report at the Kingsport Police Department, a resident of Glen Avenue called central dispatch at 2:11 Sunday morning. He reported spotting a man attempting to enter his van, which was parked in the driveway.
When officers arrived they located the suspect, later identified as Michael L. Austin, 41, in a nearby church parking lot. He claimed he was walking back to his own residence, listed as 349 Glen Ave., but reportedly provided "differing and elusive answers as what he was doing, where he had been."
As police were speaking with Austin, the caller arrived on the scene and stated two scrap boat engines were missing from his vehicle. Austin is alleged to have "became extremely belligerent and combative" toward the man, with police separating them to avoid further confrontation.
When asked if he had any weapons, Austin immediately pulled a folding hawkbill-style knife from his pocket. An officer reports quickly securing the knife and conducting a pat-down, locating a bottle of the opioid addiction treatment drug Buprenorphine.
Austin allegedly had difficulty standing and thick, slurred speech, constantly repositioning himself "to collect his knife and bottle of medication" from the hood of a police cruiser.
A police report says dispatch received a call on an accident with injuries at a nearby location, with one of the two officers on scene departing to that incident. KPD Public Information Officer Tom Patton says that as the primary officer attempted to arrest Austin for public intoxication, he began resisting and "violently jerked away."
Austin allegedly punched the officer in the face and lunged for his knife on the hood of the car. As the officer attempted to prevent Austin from reaching the weapon, according to Patton, Austin continued striking him multiple times in the face, trying to shove his finger into one of the officer's eyes.
Austin was allegedly able to overcome the officer and reach his knife, opening the blade and advancing forward. The officer then deployed his Taser, striking Austin in the midsection. Police said Austin dropped to one knee and cut the Taser probe wires with his knife, screaming incoherently and cutting a deep laceration in his own hand. Patton says Austin then came at the officer while still armed.
The officer reportedly drew his sidearm and backed away, continually ordering Austin to drop the knife. The officer continued to retreat across the parking lot until his back was against a fence, then instructed Austin that if he took one more step toward him he would be shot.
Patton says Austin then stated, "You'll have to shoot me in the back," then turned and began walking away. The officer followed Austin down Glen Avenue at a safe distance, calling for backup. At one point Austin reportedly stopped by a pile of debris and picked up a large 2x4 piece of lumber, then dropped it and ran to his home.
Outside the residence, Austin allegedly retrieved a landscaping brick and threw it at the officer, forcing him to jump out of the way. Soon a backup officer arrived and fired his Taser at Austin, who was continuing to ignore police commands. An incident report says one probe from the Taser hit Austin, while the second probe missed.
After allegedly throwing a brick directly at a second officer's head, two bean bag rounds were shot into his torso from a department-issued, less-than-lethal shotgun. Police report that the rounds appeared to have no effect, with Austin continuing to fight and still grasping his knife. A third bean bag round was fired, with the impact sending Austin stumbling to his knees.
Three additional officers were arriving to the scene at that point, with one firing a Taser at Austin. He was then subdued by police, disarmed and taken into custody.
Sullivan County EMS responded and provided treatment for the self-inflicted laceration to Austin's hand. He was then transported to Holston Valley Medical Center to determine if he needed further care.
Once released from the hospital, Austin was transported to the Kingsport City Jail. He was booked on charges of attempted second-degree murder, aggravated assault, public intoxication, resisting arrest, and simple possession of drugs.
KPD Police Chief David Quillin commended his officers for the restraint they displayed in arresting Austin. A press release states that considering Austin had attacked and threatened police while holding a knife, lumber and bricks, the use of more excessive force could have been justified.
"I'm just thankful that none of my officers were seriously injured, and they all went home in one piece at the end of their shift," stated Chief Quillin. "This is certainly a stark reminder of just how dangerous this job can be at times."
Patton says a nearby resident who witnessed a portion of this incident gave a similar account as the officers on scene, and also commended their restraint.
"All of the responding Kingsport police officers involved, especially the primary officer, showed extraordinary restraint in this incident, in bringing Mr. Austin to justice by less lethal means," said Patton.