In a tragic and unexpected turn of events late at night on September 2021, Texas State University junior, Austin Salyer, was shot and killed in his sleep by his neighbor, Gabriel Brown. The life of the promising young student, who was studying criminal justice and military science, tragically ended with the accidental pull of a trigger.
Brown had reportedly been on the phone with his father while modifying a gun at approximately midnight, when the weapon discharged and struck the sleeping student. He then turned himself in to authorities.
Although not arrested, Brown was eventually indicted on criminally negligent homicide charges, and brought to trial with a $3000 bond. But the process did not bring peace of mind to Austin’s parents – Bonnie and Rodney.
After receiving her last communication with Austin at 8:53 pm, where he told his mother he was going to bed, Bonnie start to panic when his phone was still in his apartment the next morning. She asked one of Austin’s friends to go check on him, but found only Fire and EMS personnel instead. It was only later that Bonnie received a call from a police officer to inform her of the irreparable damage to her family.
Brown accepted a plea of guilty and was initially sentenced to 180 days in jail, with the memorable days of Austin’s birthday and the date of the shooting to be served for the five following years. However, the hearing was called off when the Judge changed the sentence to 90 days imprisonment.
Bonnie and Rodney Salyer were not apprised of this modification and had to act independently to understand why the conviction had lessened. As it stands, their son’s killer gets to serve only a reduced sentence. The Salyers, who are been denied justice, and vocalize their discontentment with the ruling.
This unimaginable and life-changing experience has left the Salyers with a broken heart, grieved at the memory of their son, and a righteous indignation, seeking justice for the life of Austin Salyer.