News & Politics

Is This Austin Murder Connected to Travis County District Attorney Garza's Lenient Arrest and Release Policies?

Official portrait of Travis County DA Jose Garza. From his official government website.

Travis County District Attorney Jose Garza has come under scrutiny since instituting at least two major policy changes at his office. One policy, described by this document, works to increase the number of arrestees accused of crimes who are released on personal recognizance (PR) bonds. Some of these arrestees are required to wear ankle monitors, but that has not stopped some of them from engaging in more crimes once they have been released.

In the case of David Olmos, Garza’s office supported the release of the 8-time convicted felon, who then allegedly led police from multiple law enforcement agencies on a chase across central Texas and then went on an alleged 10-day armed robbery spree. Olmos would not have been free to commit these acts if Garza’s office had not had him released on personal recognizance. Personal recognizance bonds require no bail, merely a $40 processing fee or 3% of the bond amount if any bond has been set. A judge must approve release on a PR bond.

District Attorney Garza’s second controversial policy mandates the release of felony arrestees if the assistant district attorney examines a case file and declines to press felony charges. A standing secret order PJ Media first reported on orders the Travis County booking and processing center to release such arrestees, even if they might face similar or lesser charges as is often the case. 

A case allegedly involving Dedreuain Michael Reese, Jr., of Austin appears to be connected to both Garza policies, and to be the first homicide connected to them. 

According to the case affidavit of arrest PJ Media has obtained, Reese was present at about 8:20 PM on June 4, 2021, at an address on Swallow Court in Austin. According to the case file, Destiny Bankston traveled to that address to visit her boyfriend, Percy Washington. Reese was present and confronted Bankston, saying “Bitch, I’ll hit you,” or “Bitch, I’ll pistol whip you.” Reese pulled out a full-size black semiautomatic pistol and pulled the slide back as if to load a round into the chamber. The confrontation continued, with Bankston telling Reese he would not hit her and she would call her father to fight him. The affidavit says Reese struck Bankston on the right side of her head with the gun, causing her head to bleed. Bankston left and sought medical aid at a nearby hospital, where she provided a statement to an Austin police officer. She provided a sworn statement on June 7, and Austin police had gathered evidence corroborating her story in between. 

Reese was arrested on June 21, 2021, and booked. He was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, a first-degree felony. 

Travis County released him on June 26, 2021, on a PR bond, apparently in accord with Garza’s release policies. He was required to wear an ankle monitor and required to appear before a court in August 2021. 

Austin suffered yet another homicide on July 8 — at the exact same Swallow Court address at which Reese had been arrested in the assault case a month earlier. It was Austin’s 45th homicide of 2021.

On July 15, 2021, Reese was arrested again and held on another first-degree felony. His bond was set at $1,000,000. Reese faced a new charge now: murder.

On Friday, the Austin Police Department issued a press release about Reese’s latest arrest. 

The Austin Police Department (APD) has identified Lauren Gums as the victim in the July 7 homicide on Swallow Ct. 

Austin 911 received calls in reference to a person that had been shot and was bleeding at the above location. APD officers arrived on scene and discovered the victim, Lauren Gums, laying in the parking lot in front of 8305 Swallow Ct. with an apparent gunshot wound and unresponsive. Austin-Travis County EMS arrived on the scene and he was pronounced deceased at 10:49 p.m.  

Homicide investigators along with crime scene technicians were called to the scene to investigate. This case is under investigation.  

On July 8, 2021, The Travis County Medical Examiner’s office conducted an autopsy and determined the official cause of death to be gunshot wounds and the manner of death homicide. 

On Thursday, July 15, 2021, a warrant was issued for Dedreuain Reese charging him with murder in this case. Following that arrest on July 16, 2021, another warrant was issued charging the second suspect, Milo Douglas with murder.   

Both men are currently held in the Travis County Jail. A source tells PJ Media that the men were apparently involved in a gun sale when an altercation or disagreement ensued and Gums was shot dead.

Reese would not have been on the streets had he not been released on personal recognizance in the alleged pistol-whipping assault of Ms. Bankston, which occurred on June 8.

The Reese case strikes at two of the ongoing issues with Garza’s leniency on crime. His office has set a policy of defaulting in favor of releasing arrestees even in violent cases, and even if they have extensive criminal records as in the Olmos case. Garza has also publicly partnered with the Austin Police Department since April 2021 on an initiative to curb gun-related crimes. Garza has said he is prioritizing domestic violence.

But Reese was initially arrested for an alleged assault in what may be a domestic dispute in which he reportedly used a gun. Yet per Garza’s standing policies, he was released on a PR bond despite facing aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, which is a first-degree felony. 

On July 8, Reese allegedly committed murder.