AUSTIN, Texas – The former deputy arrested in the fatal Sunday shooting of three people in Austin, Texas, was left largely unsupervised by the criminal justice system months after a woman asserted in sworn affidavits that she and a child feared he would hurt them.
An examination of court records shows Stephen Broderick, a former property crimes detective with the Travis County sheriff’s office, spent 16 days in jail last summer on charges of sexually assaulting a child.
Broderick, 41, then posted bail, which was set at $50,000, on June 22. The courts ordered him not to contact or go within 200 feet of the child. Broderick also was ordered to wear a GPS tracking device.
But five months after his release, with his case still pending, a Travis County judge ordered the removal of the device on Nov. 5. Broderick’s lawyer argued in a written motion to the court that Broderick had worn the electronic monitor for 142 days with no substantial violations and that it should be removed.
State District Judge Karen Sage agreed, a decision that left Broderick largely unsupervised months after the woman said she feared for her and the child’s safety with Broderick out of jail.
Austin Police Chief Joe Chacon declined to release the identity of those killed in the carnage but did say Broderick knew the victims, two Hispanic women and a Black man, and that the shooting was targeted.
Officials said a child related to the case was safe and in police custody.
Officials said the attack, which happened just before noon in an apartment complex near the Arboretum shopping area, was an act of domestic violence.
A manhunt involving local authorities, as well as the FBI, was launched Sunday. Broderick was arrested Monday along a rural highway in nearby Manor, Texas.
“Because Mr. Broderick committed this heinous crime after he paid a money bond to be released on charges related to sexual assault against a child, Texas law permits his detention without bail,” Travis County District Attorney José Garza said.
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In an interview Sunday with the Austin American-Statesman, part of the USA TODAY Network, Sage said she typically agrees to remove tracking devices when a defendant has exhibited a pattern of compliance and has not incurred any violations. Sage, who left in place Broderick’s no-contact and distancing stipulations, said she rarely keeps defendants on GPS tracking for more than 90 days if they have been compliant.
“He had been on GPS for (five) months with no violations,” Sage said. “It’s a pretty common thing for me to do, frankly.”
Broderick’s bail conditions required him to surrender all firearms and not obtain any new ones. In an application for a protective order after Broderick’s arrest, the woman said she worried about her safety and that of the children.
“I’m afraid he will try to hurt me or (the) children, because these allegations have come out and he may lose his career,” she stated. “Stephen has prior military experience and is SWAT trained. If he wanted to hurt someone, he would know how.”
The decision by Sage to remove the tracking device underscores the increased challenges facing judges amid the national conversation on criminal justice reform.
Progressive activists pushing for bail reform want judges to grant no-cost personal bonds to people accused of many violent and nonviolent offenses. That, supporters say, allows the accused to work and provide for their families as they fight the charges against them.
In weighing bond decisions, judges are to consider the community’s safety and the likelihood of the defendant showing up for court dates.
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Before granting the order to remove the monitoring device, Sage reviewed allegations from Travis County prosecutors that Broderick had violated the terms of an emergency protective order in the child sexual assault case. The order prohibited Broderick from contacting the child.
On July 6, prosecutors filed a motion to increase Broderick’s bond, alleging he had sent an email accusing the woman of a “cash grab” and attached multiple images depicting her undressed and engaged in sexual acts.
Sage granted the motion, increasing Broderick’s bond to $75,000.
Kelsey McKay, a former Travis County prosecutor, said the criminal justice system has not figured out how best to identify dangerous offenders.
“In my experience, she’s quite cautious and mindful on these cases,” McKay said.
Lytza Rojas, the lawyer representing Broderick, declined to comment.
Follow reporter Ryan Autullo on Twitter: @AutulloAAS
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