AUSTIN (KXAN) — Sunday marks one year since the deadly Sixth Street mass shooting where one person was killed, and 14 others were injured. In the year since, city officials have launched the Safer Sixth Street initiative to try and make Austin’s downtown entertainment district safer for visitors and businesses.
June 12, 2021: Austin Police respond to Sixth Street mass shooting
Austin Police responded to a mass shooting in the 400 block of East Sixth Street just before 1:30 a.m. June 12, 2021. Gunshots rang out among a crowd gathered in the downtown entertainment district, just before closing time.
“Everything was totally fine,” witness Matt Perlstein said in previous KXAN coverage. “… there were just so many people in the street. And we just heard like, nine — a bunch — gunshots going off. Everyone got on the ground. We couldn’t even comprehend what was going on at the time. It’s still difficult to comprehend.”
Initial reports confirmed one person was killed and at least 13 others were hurt during the shooting. In a news conference in the hours following the shooting, then-Interim Police Chief Joseph Chacon said most of the victims were innocent bystanders.
Because of the size of the crowd, APD officers had to transport some victims by patrol car, with the massive volumes of people making it difficult for Austin-Travis County EMS and the Austin Fire Department to access the scene.
On June 12, APD said the department had identified two suspects connected to the mass shooting, with one in custody and the other at large. Chacon said during the news conference the motive behind the shooting wasn’t yet known.
“This does appear to be an isolated incident between two parties,” he said.
June 13, 2021: 1 person dies from injuries following mass shooting
APD officials confirmed Douglas John Kantor, 25, died from his injuries in an Austin hospital in the afternoon of Sunday, June 13, 2021, following the shooting.
Kantor was visiting Austin from Michigan, his family members told KXAN. In a statement, the family says Doug was “looking forward to marrying his high school sweetheart of 10 years and starting a family.”
“He was loved by all who knew him and had an infectious smile that would light up any room. He was loved by his family, friends and everyone who met him. This senseless tragedy has put an end to all his dreams,” the family said in a statement to KXAN’s Jala Washington.
On June 13, APD said the suspect in custody was a juvenile, but added the age of the second suspect was unknown.
June 16, 2021: Initial APD affidavit said teen argument led to mass shooting
An arrest affidavit from the Austin Police Department said an argument between two groups of teens on East Sixth Street escalated to the shooting that killed one person and injured 14 others. APD said a 17-year-old pulled a gun from his waistband before he and his friends walked up to another group of people. After an initial discussion, they began shooting.
The affidavit said as the group the 17-year-old was in walked by the other group, the teen said, “What y’all wanna do? Y’all wanna fight?” A minor from the other group replied with, “it’s whatever,” and then the affidavit says that’s when the 17-year-old pulled out his gun and started shooting.
The same minor said the 17-year-old shot him in the leg just a few days prior while in Killeen. Killeen Police told KXAN on June 8 that officers were called to a Harker Heights hospital to talk with a teenager who had been shot. The victim said he was outside a home on Toledo Drive when a dark-colored sedan drove past and fired shots toward him.
Multiple people confirmed to investigators that not only did the 17-year-old have a gun, but two other people did as well, the affidavit said. The 17-year-old and the other juvenile each showed their weapons after the brief verbal exchange before the gunfire began, the affidavit said.
Eight shell casings, believed to be from the same gun, were found by investigators on the sidewalk outside a bar in the area of the shooting, the affidavit said.
The 17-year-old was the second person arrested in connection with the shooting, after police arrested the first person — a 15-year-old minor — on June 13. The minor was being held in the Garnder-Bettes Juvenile Detention Center on a deadly conduct charge.
However, on June 22, 2021, the Travis County district attorney announced all charges had been dropped against the 17-year-old and 15-year-old minor in connection to the shooting.
June 22, 2021: Travis County DA drops all charges against 2 suspects; new teen suspect identified
On June 22, the Travis County DA’s Office dropped all charges against the two original suspects in the Sixth Street mass shooting, officials announced in a news conference.
Travis County DA, José Garza, said charges will be dropped against both the 17-year-old and 15-year-old.
“There is not sufficient evidence that either of these gentlemen fired a shot,” District Attorney Garza said Tuesday.
However, Kantor’s family members told KXAN they had “no faith” in the office’s decision to drop the charges.
“Cursing at one another or flashing a gun — however they were involved,” Kantor’s brother Nick told KXAN. “They were all there, and they should have charges brought against them — not just the one guy who pulled the trigger.”
That same day, Chacon said new witness statements and evidence led to changes in the case. APD reported De’Ondre Jermirris White, then 19, would be charged with murder, with a $1 million bond set.
APD officials said White is believed to be responsible for the shooting that led to Kantor’s death. Chacon said investigators analyzed ballistic evidence and surveillance camera footage and now believed White was responsible for firing the shots.
“Based now upon multiple witness interviews, ballistic evidence, video evidence, and the positions of the suspect — Mr. White — and the victims, we know that White was the person who fired his handgun, striking Mr. Kantor and multiple other victims,” Chacon said.
Police confirmed they had interviewed White following the shooting, but he was released and returned to Killeen. APD said he had since changed his hair and appearance and was still at large and “should be considered armed and dangerous” as of June 22, 2021.
June 24, 2021: New mass shooting suspect arrested in Killeen
On June 24, 2021, the Killeen Police Department arrested White in connection to the Sixth Street mass shooting in Austin. Officials said they believed White was the sole shooter responsible for the mass casualty incident.
Members of the Killeen PD SWAT team and the Lone Star Fugitive Task Force arrested White at a Killeen residence. He was arrested on a warrant for murder and initially held at the Killeen City Jail, held on a $1 million bond.
“We are glad to work with dedicated professionals that are committed to keeping our communities safe regardless of boundaries. This case covered multiple jurisdictions, and together we were able to locate and take into custody a violent fugitive,” said Killeen PD Chief Charles Kimble in a press release.
According to an arrest affidavit for White, a disagreement between two rival groups of teens/young adults from Killeen led to the shooting.
When interviewed by police, two people within White’s group named White as the shooter, the affidavit said. One said a person with the other group showed a gun, and that’s when White fired multiple rounds from near the curb line into the street at the other group.
“This information matches evidence on scene, specifically the location of the cartridge cases on the sidewalk and in the street near the curb, as well as the victim locations in the street, away from the sidewalk area,” the affidavit reads.
July 6, 2021: Austin City Council member proposes downtown safety resolution
Less than a month after the Sixth Street mass shooting, two women were critically injured in the early hours of July 6, 2021. Kathie Tovo, the Austin City Council member representing the downtown entertainment district, posted a statement following the July shooting.
“Over the last several weeks, my staff and I have been reviewing recommendations for improving safety in our Downtown entertainment district. In the next month, I will be bringing forward a resolution directing our City Manager to respond to those recommendations. We can and must take further action to improve safety in our entertainment district and to reduce gun violence throughout our community.”
Some of those recommendations included working to reduce the amount of space people have to congregate on Sixth Street. She added a possible suggestion of restaurants incorporating seating along the sidewalks to help narrow the standing area.
She also proposed adding more lighting to the downtown corridor to help discourage crime, as well as possibly removing barricades on weekends so people can’t gather in the roadway.
“People are coming down there, including a lot of underage individuals are coming down there. They’re not going into the businesses, they’re just spending time on 6th Street,” Tovo said, adding that it can lead to fights and produce crime.
July 29, 2021: Austin City Council adopts Safer Sixth Street initiative
Austin City Council approved July 29, 2021, a resolution directing city leaders to look into possible safety improvements along Sixth Street, after a string of shootings in the entertainment district. By Aug. 30, City Manager Spencer Cronk was tasked to do the following:
- Create an interdepartmental team led by an Entertainment Services Group and with representation from — at a minimum — the Austin Police Department, Austin Transportation Department, Austin Energy, Austin Fire Department, Austin County EMS, Austin Code, the Historic Preservation Office and the Office of Violence Prevention.
- Use temporary lighting and upgrade existing lighting, if necessary, to provide dramatically brighter spaces along the 6th Street corridor
- Explore options such as café seating, water barriers and other efforts to eliminate the space where people gather during weekend 6th street closures
- Determine the extent to which earlier assertions about underage presence on 6th Street and underage drinking are still true today
- Engage with peer cities to identify best practices in entertainment district planning
- Explore the feasibility of creating a dedicated EMS presence during weekend nights with personnel using specialized vehicles for rapid response, treatment and removal to an area hospital
Council is asking City Manager Spencer Cronk to do the following by Sept. 30:
- Coordinate with the Texas Alcohol and Beverage Commission on additional strategies for curbing underage drinking and potentially limiting the presence of underage Austinites on 6th Street during weekend evenings.
Council is asking City Manager Spencer Cronk to do the following by Oct. 30:
- Initiate the development of a nightlife management plan
- Analyze 6th Street weekend closures and develop a list of measures that would need to be met for 6th Street to be re-opened and propose a corresponding timeline
- Engage property owners to discuss land use regulations along 6th Street to determine whether changes might foster more diverse uses along the corridor
August 30, 2021: Sixth Street shooting suspect charged with murder, 14 counts of aggravated assault
On Aug. 30, a Travis County grand jury indicted White with murder along with 14 counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. The indictment came two months after White’s arrest, where he’d been held in the Killeen City Jail on a $1 million bond.
White was interviewed by Austin police before being released to Killeen, where he reportedly claimed to have fired back at the group after hearing gunshots from the other group. But detectives said this didn’t line up with the evidence.
“No victims were located on the sidewalk and no projectile defects were located in the building behind [White’s group],” an affidavit read.
He’s currently considered to be the sole shooter and to have used one gun.
The Travis County District Attorney’s Office said at the time it was still investigating any possible role the two other teens initially arrested might have played in the incident. They were originally arrested in connection with the shooting, but later released and their charges dropped.
October 5, 2021: City receives update on Safer Sixth Street initiative
On Oct. 5, 2021, Austin City Council received an update from APD and other city departments on safety improvement efforts.
- Increased lighting: An interdepartmental city team identified places that need more lighting along the corridor, including north-south streets and alleyways
- Energy crews also performed maintenance on existing street lights and replaced old-style fixtures with LED ones. One of the remaining steps identified was encouraging property owners with buildings along alleyways to install lighting on their building to face the alley
- Curbing underage drinking: APD officials said underage drinking and presence along Sixth Street was an ongoing issue
- The interdepartmental team said it planned to work with the Texas Alcohol and Beverage Commission on ways to curtail underage drinking and prevent underage visitors from coming to Sixth Street on the weekends
- Established EMS presence downtown: The safety initiative called for ATCEMS to have a dedicated presence along Sixth Street on the weekends, including having specialized vehicles for rapid response, treatment and transport
- APD, AFD and ATCEMS said it was planning a dedicated presence and “staging area” on Sixth Street, which would allow first responders and officers to enter areas that aren’t secured to get to, treat and extricate patients quickly
- Changing the layout: Possible options included added cafe seating or pop-up efforts to eliminate gathering space along the streets during weekend road closures
- The team said in the memo they needed more time to work with business and property owners to help identify possible locations for added seating or pop-up layouts
- Engaging with other cities: The team said it was working with “peer cities” like Seattle, San Francisco, New York, Orlando, Las Vegas, Arlington and Sydney, Australia to highlight best practices for entertainment district planning
- Recommendations were expected to be reported to the council by Oct. 30
November 11, 2021: KXAN Investigates — How another U.S. city transformed its entertainment district
In a November 2021 KXAN investigation, investigators explored Arlington, Virginia’s Clarendon Entertainment District, an area with more than a dozen bars and the site of Washington, D.C.-area nightlife on the weekends.
Following a slew of violence that peaked in 2015, officials launched the Arlington Restaurant Initiative. The plan involved working with Clarendon District bar owners and other Arlington County agencies to help train bar employees in sexual assault intervention, first aid and fake ID detection.
Statistics we obtained from the Arlington County Police Department showed assault and battery, assault and battery while resisting law enforcement, and malicious wounding (which is similar to what Texas calls aggravated assault) went down in the Clarendon District by a combined 69% between 2015 and 2019. The number of overall arrests in the district dropped 30% in that time.
“What’s been done over here, I think it should be done across the country,” Toney Taheri, general manager of Bar Bao, told KXAN.
November 27, 2021: Safer Sixth Street Initiative looks at pilot program efforts
A potential pilot program under consideration by the city of Austin would allow businesses in the 200 and 500 blocks of Sixth Street to use designated spaces on the sidewalk, parking lanes and part of the street for seating, dining, live music or art, according to the documents. This would be allowed when the street is closed Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.
Another pilot option would allow businesses on these blocks to use the sidewalk when the street is open to traffic, documents said. A second recommendation highlighted a possible designated rideshare space for pickups and drop-offs, with locations along the 700 blocks of Trinity and Neches and the 400 block of Eighth Street mentioned as options.
The documents explain a goal of clearing the streets faster when bars close at 2 a.m., reducing congestion at peak hours and reducing conflicts and fights.
December 10, 2021: Another man indicted in Sixth Street mass shooting for evidence tampering
A man was indicted Dec. 10 in connection to the June 12, 2021, mass shooting along Sixth Street. A Travis County grand jury indicted Jeremiah Tabb, then 18, on a tampering with evidence charge. He was arrested in Bell County for a third-degree felony.
Tabb allegedly tried to dispose of the firearm suspect White used in the mass shooting by selling it, the indictment said.
“My heart continues to break for the family of Mr. Kantor and all of the victims of this senseless act of violence. The District Attorney’s Office will not rest until everyone responsible is held accountable,” said Travis County DA Garza in a press release.
January 27, 2022: Man indicted in Sixth Street mass shooting released on bond
After being indicted for tampering with evidence related to the Sixth Street mass shooting, Tabb was released on a personal bond Jan. 20, officials with the Travis County District Attorney’s Office confirmed.
While Tabb was released on bond, the DA said he didn’t agree with it.
“The Travis County District Attorney’s Office opposed pre-trial release in this case. Our office continues to think of the family of Mr. Kantor and all of the victims of this senseless act of violence,” Garza said in a statement. “The District Attorney’s office will not rest until everyone responsible is held accountable.”
March 3, 2022: Austin City Council approves Safer Sixth Street resolution
Austin City Council approved March 3 directing the city manager to work with bar owners to create written safety plans, train door staff and increase communication with APD.
The council also would like “to take a strong stance against establishments with records of repeated violent incidents taking place among their customers.” They want to examine what Houston has done in that regard, so part of the resolution would look into “legal options that may be available to the City to address establishments with such records.”
It would also give incentives and loans to owners of historic buildings on Sixth Street to add kitchens.
April 5, 2022: What’s the latest on the Safer Sixth Street initiative?
Austin City Council discussed in closed session April 5 a resolution item pertaining to what actions the city can legally take against bars with repeated violence offenses as part of the Safer Sixth Street resolution. The following measures, with noted deadlines, come as part of the initiative:
- Provide Council with options for taking legal action against establishments with records of repeated violent incidents (information due within 45 days of resolution passing)
- Work with Sixth Street bar owners to encourage written safety plans
- Initiate a comprehensive lighting survey and encourage owners to add lighting to private properties (reports and information due June 1, 2022)
- Create an entertainment permit to strengthen staff training and communication with public safety professionals (deadline: “as soon as possible”)
- Update Council on progress toward establishing an Emergency Medical Services staging area on Sixth Street (report and recommendation due May 1)
- Provide information and recommendations about potentially reestablishing a gun buyback program (research and recommendation due May 1)
- Propose a pilot program to make loans or grants to historic buildings along Sixth Street for kitchen additions (Pilot program to start by June 1)
- Communicate any possible new recommendations after festivals this spring, like South by Southwest
April 5, 2022: 6th Street mass shooting suspect appears in court
The man charged with murder and 14 counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon in relation to the June 2021 Sixth Street mass shooting appeared in court for his first hearing April 5. White, now 20, is the suspect APD said fired a handgun multiple times into large crowds of people on Sixth Street in the early hours of June 12, 2021.
White’s defense attorney, Russ Hunt, arrived in court shortly after 11 a.m. April 5. He, White and a representative for the State stood in front of the judge for a few minutes.
The State said it wants to expedite the case, adding it feels the investigation is complete. The judge issued a standing discovery order and scheduled the next hearing for White in eight weeks.
Kantor’s family attended the hearing as well.
White is currently being held in the Travis County Correctional complex on a $1 million bond.
April 5, 2022: Kantor family attends hearing for Sixth Street mass shooting suspect
Family members of Kantor, the 25-year-old man killed in the June 2021 Sixth Street mass shooting, arrived in Austin to attend the hearing for the suspect charged in connection to the shooting.
Kantor’s family told KXAN that Doug came to Austin to visit a friend and celebrate his recent graduation from the University of Michigan, where Doug had earned his master’s degree. One day before he was supposed to fly home, his mother, Julia, said she received a call from an unknown Austin number informing her he’d been shot below the rib cage.
After multiple surgeries, Doug died the following day from his injuries. Returning to Austin 10 months later, Julia told KXAN the journey back has not been easy.
“I get knots in my stomach every time I think about this city,” Julia said.
The Kantors praised the efforts of APD officers who responded to the scene and, due to the chaotic nature and large crowds, put Doug in their patrol car and drove him directly to the hospital.
“We’re all very grateful for the police to just disregard all that and get him to the hospital and give him the best chance of survival,” Julia said.
However, the family feels the political climate between the city and its law enforcement at the time had an impact on the circumstances leading to Doug’s death.
“Had things been done differently in this city, and the police not been defunded, I don’t think we’d be sitting here having this press conference or interview. I think that my brother would still be alive,” Doug’s brother, Nick, added.
The “defunding” Nick Kantor is referencing relates to the 2020-21 budget that the Austin City Council adopted that moved $150 million from the APD, which created a shift in how policing and public safety were carried out in the city.
In August 2021, the Austin City Council approved a record-high $443.1 million 2021-22 budget for APD.
May 18, 2022: Here’s where Austin stands with its Safer Sixth Street initiative
In a May 18 memo, APD Chief Chacon and other city officials sent a memo to the council updating them on the viability and implementation of Safer Sixth Street proposals.
This is one of a few updates staff have sent back to the city council on the Safer 6th Street initiative. The most current updates were broken down as follows:
- Request: Craft a pilot that creates more seating, dining and other safe activities during 6th Street closures — which happen on Thursday, Friday and Saturday night — and implement the program by May 1.
- Response: Despite the deadline, the program is still being finalized, but city staff already have an application process developed, according to that memo.
- Request: Provide updates on creating a dedicated emergency medical services presence and staging area on Sixth Street that will help EMS effectively get people medical help.
- Response: The memo says a staging area has been created and that ATCEMS is also working on getting new equipment to help them care for patients quickly.
- Request: Provide information about a city-sponsored gun buyback program and whether or not that would be effective.
- Response: The Austin Police Department reported in the memo that it has held gun buyback programs before and that they did not show significant changes in gun-related crimes. The PD did not recommend those programs.
- Request: Look into the possibility of installing more “high activity location observation,” or HALO, cameras in the area.
- Response: The memo said there are already 47 cameras as a part of the HALO system downtown and that they identified 13 places where additional cameras would be useful. They are also looking to update the current HALO system. They put forward two options in the memo, one that’s just under $900,000 and one that’s more than $190,000.
All the items listed above were supposed to have been brought back before the council in an update by May 1, but the memo with updates was not published until May 18.
- Request: City council asked for legal options about punishing establishments where violent incidents keep taking place.
- Response: The memo says the law department provided this information to the city council during an executive session in April. That would have happened behind closed doors.
After reading through the memo, some bar owners told KXAN they didn’t think many of the items were “going to do us much good.”
“What they need to do, what the city needs to do, is open up Sixth Street,” said Gary Manley, owner and general partner of the Iron Cactus. “They need to get rid of the street partying that takes place between midnight and 2 a.m. every single weekend.”
Meanwhile, Tovo — the Austin City Council member representing the entertainment district who brought forward the Safer Sixth Street initiative — said good steps had been taken.
“There’s certainly a couple areas that I need to follow up on, there was some information provided but I still have questions about it,” Tovo said. “But I’m glad that work is progressing. I see some good next steps.”
June 7, 2022: Austin City Council considering metal detectors on Sixth Street
The next steps in the Safer Sixth Street initiative include the addition of 13 HALO cameras downtown, as well as calls for the purchase and use of metal detectors.
According to a draft of the resolution, these would be handheld detector wands for certain businesses in the Sixth Street and Rainey Street districts. It asks the City Manager to survey bar owners in both districts to “gauge interest in the City purchasing and distributing hand-held metal detector wants to willing and interested establishments in a manner that provides a public purpose and in alignment with requirements for the use of City Funds.”
City leaders are expected to report back on its findings by July 15, as well as a cost estimate.
“We’re looking for any and all options,” Tovo said. “This is actually a recommendation that was made by a community member who felt offering the wands to bar owners might be of real value.”
Some bar owners told KXAN they were in favor of adding HALO cameras along Sixth Street but added they didn’t see the value of handheld metal detectors since carrying a handgun is legal.
According to the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC), guns are not allowed inside businesses that generate at least 51% of their revenue from on-site alcohol consumption. Such businesses have to post a 51% sign prohibiting patrons from carrying handguns onto the property. Businesses can also display voluntary signs that prohibit firearms.
“Some [bars] are functioning under restaurant code, so guns are allowed,” Tovo said. “And so this would provide businesses with additional information about who within the property might be carrying a gun or a weapon.”
June 10, 2022: City initiatives process for new, taller buildings heights along Sixth Street
Austin City Council members passed a resolution June 10 that directs the city manager to allow developers to build on top of existing Sixth Street businesses in the downtown entertainment district. The area, referred to as “Dirty Sixth,” has been the source of gun violence in Austin’s downtown area.
Stream Realty, which owns several properties on Sixth Street, asked the city for the code amendment so it can build a hotel and office building. This is all part of the Dallas-based company’s plan to revitalize “the heart of Austin, while preserving its historic roots,” according to the proposal.
As part of the resolution, City Council members passed “allowing a structure located on East Sixth Street and east of Neches and west of Sabine to have a maximum building height of 140 feet or that allowable under the Capitol View Corridor, whichever is less.”
According to the attorney representing Stream Realty, the goal of changing the height restrictions is to help diversify the uses of Sixth Street so the entertainment district is viewed more than just a party spot.
June 12, 2022: Kantor family marks 1-year anniversary of Doug’s death in Austin
On Sunday, Doug’s family, friends and loved ones gathered near the Mooseknuckle Pub along the 400 block of East Sixth Street to mark the one-year anniversary of the fatal shooting. At 12:01 p.m., they released balloons to commemorate the exact time Doug passed away.