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After A Man Died, Gov. Abbott Blamed Austin's Homeless Policies. Mayor Called It Demonizing.

Gov. Greg Abbott
Marjorie Kamys Cotera
For The Texas Tribune
Gov. Greg Abbott during the Texas Fallen Heroes Memorial Ceremony on May 25, 2019.

Twice last year, Gov. Greg Abbott drew ire from Austin city officials when he suggested that crimes were the result of the city's new approach to homelessness, in which it has relaxed ordinances prohibiting camping or otherwise posting up in public spaces.

Not only was it an unfair, they said, but neither of the crimes were committed by people experiencing homelessness — and one of them happened before any policy changes took effect.

On Saturday afternoon, Abbott landed a more relevant example when the Austin Police Department confirmed that a suspect who fatally stabbed a worker at a local restaurant a day earlierwas experiencing homelessness. But Austin leaders said it's still disingenuous to link the crime to housing status.

Abbott did so even before official confirmation of the man's homelessness, tweeting on Friday evening that, "When all facts are revealed I bet you’ll learn that the killer was a homeless man with prior arrests."

"If so Austin’s reckless homeless policy puts lives in danger to murders like this," the Republican wrote. "Austin leaders must answer for their perilous policies."

The incident in question happened on Friday morning when, according to Austin police, a “white male in his mid 20s” attacked a customer at a local coffee shop for no apparent reason.

After patrons attempted to detain him, the suspect escaped to a nearby Freebirds World Burritorestaurant, where he stabbed two workers, fatally injuring one of them. The suspect then climbed onto a neighboring roof and fell off it.

Abbott tweeted about the incident twice on Friday, saying in his second message that, "This murder must be condemned by Austin leaders."

Juan Pablo Garnham reports on urban affairs for the Texas Tribune and is based in Dallas. In the past, he worked as senior producer for the podcast In The Thick, editor of CityLab Latino and City Hall reporter for El Diario in New York. He has also taught at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY. He is from Santiago, Chile. Read more about Juan Pablo.