AUSTIN (KXAN) – Parents of students at two north Austin schools told KXAN they are terrified of seeing a man with a long rife walk the path in front of their children’s schools for several days, sometimes twice a day, in December.
The Austin Police Department confirmed to KXAN that Isaiah Smith, 28, who walked in front of St. Francis School and Webb Middle School with weapons, has also been seen downtown at the Austin Public Library.
“We’ve seen the individual. He has come in to take care of Library business – he checked out a book. But this is a public place, and this is an open-carry state, unfortunately. So there’s no way we can keep them out at the moment,” said Roosevelt Weeks, Director of the Austin Public Library.
“[People] feel the library is a safe and welcoming place,” Weeks continued. “With someone with a long rifle, that’s kind of upsetting for a lot of people. That doesn’t present a safe environment for a lot of people,” he said.
Smith has also gotten the attention of public and state officials. District 4 Council Member Chito Vela said parents have been “very worried” for their children’s safety.
“He has showed up in multiple places, essentially parading around with some kind of semi-automatic rifle and just scaring people, intimidating people, really causing a lot of fear and honestly panic in the community,” Vela said.
Vela said Texas laws surrounding open carry make it difficult to take any action against this individual.
“The parents feel terrorized,” Vela said. “[The children] have been forced to interact with him. And this is just unacceptable. My heart goes out to the parents. And I just want to say that we want to put a stop to this as soon as possible,” he continued.
While reporting on this story, KXAN learned the man, Isaiah Smith, 28, was arrested Friday on indecency with a child charges.
Austin ISD Police arrest Smith
According to an arrest warrant affidavit, Smith is contracted by the Austin Independent School District to provide tutoring services that prepare students for college.
Smith is accused of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old student in October during a tutoring session at an Austin high school. Austin ISD Police Officers arrested Smith on these charges Friday, according to police documents.
Austin ISD Police confirmed with KXAN that Smith is the same person some parents were complaining about walking in front of their schools with a long rifle.
Is this legal?
In Texas, a person is able to legally openly carry handguns, long guns, shotguns and rifles in public without a permit, said Emily Taylor, a criminal defense attorney with a firearms and self-defense practice.
“What controls both long guns and handguns is that you cannot carry in a manner calculated to alarm,” Taylor said. “Alarm, as according to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, is something that you have to evaluate on a reasonable person standard. So would a reasonable person be alarmed at the manner in which you are displaying a firearm or a deadly weapon? Obviously, the answer to that could potentially be different right in front of the school, as opposed to on your hunting lease.”
If a person causes “alarm,” they could be arrested on disorderly conduct charges. The person then could be taken to a trial by jury, which would be responsible for determining whether the “alarm” was reasonable.
“This specific crime is a Class B misdemeanor, and it’s punishable by up to six months in the county jail, up to a $2,000 fine or both. More commonly than not, it’s punished by probation,” Taylor said.