SAN MARCO, Texas – A family is fighting for a Hays County judge to review the conviction of the man who killed their son. Texas State student Austin Salyer was carelessly shot through a wall by his neighbor.
Austin Salyer was a junior at Texas State University. He was studying criminal justice and military science. He had just signed a contract with the Army in September 2021.
“Austin texted me at 8:53 pm and he said, ‘I’m going to bed,’ you know, ‘good night, sweet dreams. I love you.’ And I said, ‘ok, I love you too.’ And then I waited about three minutes and said, ‘keep making us proud’ and that was the last text I got from him,” said Bonnie Salyer, Austin’s mom.
His mother said he should get up at 4:30 the next morning for his first road march with his new platoon. At around 6am, Bonnie checked Austin’s location.
“I saw that his phone was still inside his apartment, and I was like, ‘oh my god, he overslept.’ And so I started calling him, I started calling him,” said Bonnie Salyer.
An hour and a half later, she still hadn’t heard from him.
“I thought maybe he was just in a hurry, he left his phone, which I knew in my heart that wasn’t true because nobody leaves their phone behind, right, it’s become part of our, literally part of our body. And so on towards 7:30 am I started to panic, the panic started to set in,” said Bonnie Salyer.
At around 11:15, Bonnie texted one of Austin’s friends.
“I can’t get through to Austin, and I’d like to know if you can please go knock on his door, see if you can wake him up. He was all about it. He was like, oh, yeah, I’m going to scare him,” said Bonnie Salyer.
Instead, the friend saw Fire and EMS on the fifth floor, the floor Austin Salyer was on.
“A police officer called and said, you know, what’s your son’s full name? What is his date of birth? And then he said, I’m sorry to tell you on the phone, but this morning we found your son dead in his apartment,” said Bonnie Salyer.
Austin was hit on the wall while in bed.
“It terrifies us just to think how long he could have endured their suffering with his next door neighbor and not get any help for him,” said Rodney Salyer, Austin’s father.
Austin’s neighbor Gabriel Brown claimed that around midnight he accidentally fired his gun while modifying it and talking on the phone with his father. He turned himself in but was not arrested. Brown was indicted for manslaughter. His bond was set at $3,000.
“As a victim, you are so handcuffed and at a disadvantage compared to what the criminal has at their disposal for loopholes. They can control things, they can hire any defense attorney they want, while the victim is stuck with any judge, any prosecutor, whatever. you have no control over that. They don’t have to give you any information, but everything you give must be given to them. It’s so biased towards the victim to be able to get any kind of justice,” said Rodney Salyer.
The Salyers were not happy with the charges presented.
“Everything is diluted. You have to start here just so when everything is diluted, there is some kind of punishment. In our case, they start at the bottom. They’re literally starting at the lowest crime they could start with,” said Rodney Salyer.
Brown pleaded guilty to felony manslaughter. He was originally sentenced to 180 days in jail and would report to jail for 18 days on Austin’s birthday and another 18 days on the date of the shooting for five years. Not even a month later the sentence was increased to 90 days.
“We were like, how can this be? We weren’t involved, nobody told us anything about it. , no initials. No, nothing,” said Rodney Salyer. “If we hadn’t followed him, he would have just gone behind the scenes.”
The Salyers said they had requested a hearing to review the sentence modification, but it was denied.
While Brown spends 90 days in prison, the Salyers are left with only memories.