Austin Shuffield is a 30-year-old white man from Dallas, Texas, who is accused of assaulting a black woman for blocking a parking lot exit in what her attorneys say was a hate crime. Shuffield was caught on video punching the woman in the face multiple times during the incident. He could also be seen holding a gun in part of the video.
Shuffield, who worked as a bartender, was charged March 22 with assault causing bodily injury and interference with an emergency call. He was booked into the Dallas County Jail and later released on $2,000 bail. Shuffield has not commented about the video, but told police he was acting in self defense, the Dallas Morning News reports.
The victim, 24-year-old L’Daijohnique Lee, said Shuffield unleashed a racist diatribe before the assault, including using the n-word, her attorney, Lee Meritt, said. Merritt told The Daily Beast that Shuffield called Lee, “a stupid n-word.”
Lee, who goes by Dai Lee, is recovering from injuries suffered in the attack, she said on social media. The incident has sparked protests in Dallas with community leaders calling for hate crime charges to be filed against Shuffield. The Dallas County District Attorney’s office is continuing to investigate and plans to interview Lee.
Lee told reporters the incident started over a “simple mistake” that was escalated by Shuffield. Lee said she feared for her life during the attack. “He charged at me, and he just kept hitting me,” she told the news station. Lee suffered a concussion, a swollen jaw and a black eye, she told reporters. “I’m glad I’m still alive because I could have died last night,” she told WFAA-TV.
Here’s what you need to know about Austin Shuffield:
1. Shuffield Can Be Seen Knocking Dai Lee’s Phone Out of Her Hand & Then Punching Her 5 Times in the Head After She Pushed Him Away From Her
Video recorded by a bystander shows part of the incident involving Austin Shuffield and Dai Lee. In the video, which you can watch above, Shuffield can be seen holding a gun in his hand and getting into Lee’s face as she takes out her cell phone. Shuffield then puts away his gun, and starts to walk away, before turning back to Lee and knocking her phone out of her hands.
Lee then pushes Shuffield away with both hands. He reacts by lunging at Lee and punching her in the face. He then swings a second time, hitting her in the head a second time. He then hits her with two uppercut punches and a final punch to the head before kicking her cell phone away as the video ends.
According to the Dallas Morning News, police were called to the 2800 block of Elm Street, near North Crowdus Street about 4:30 a.m. on Thursday, March 21 in the Deep Ellum neighborhood of Dallas.
The victim told police she was accidentally driving the wrong way down a street and had stopped. She said Shuffield got out of his truck and asked her to move her car because it was blocking the exit to a parking lot, according to police. Lee said she pulled her car into the parking lot to get out of the way and Shuffield approached and tried to take photos of her license plate, the newspaper reports. Police said the two then began to argue.
According to police, Shuffield knocked the phone out of Lee’s hand when she was trying to call 911. Shuffield told police he was acting in self-defense because Lee hit him, according to the arrest warrant obtained by the Dallas Morning News. He also said the woman threatened to pepper spray him and broke the back of his pickup truck’s windshield with a device used to jump-start a car, the newspaper reports. A witness said that the woman hit Shuffield after he knocked her cell phone away and then hit him several times with a closed fist.
Shuffield was arrested minutes after the attack, but later released because he was only charged with misdemeanors. Police said in the report that officers smelled alcohol while speaking to Shuffield, but a charge of public intoxication listed in the warrant was not listed in jail records, the newspaper reports. Police said they found a .45 caliber handgun and a knife while searching Shuffield’s truck.
The Dallas Police said in a statement, “The Dallas Police Department is investigating a physical altercation that occurred recently in Deep Ellum. This physical altercation was filmed and the video subsequently circulated around the country. The Dallas Police Department shares in the sentiment that the altercation captured on camera is deeply disturbing.”
The police department added, “This is still an ongoing investigation and it is imperative that we are thorough and deliberate. Detectives in this case are still interviewing witnesses and collecting evidence and will determine what if any additional charges should be filed.”
Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot said in a Facebook post, “The magistrate judge on duty was solely responsible for the bond amount. The police filed the case as misdemeanor assault, not the DA. The DA’s office is not even yet in possession of the case file from DPD and the police have not completed their investigation.”
2. Lee’s Attorney Says Shuffield ‘Verbally Accosted’ Her With ‘Racial Slurs & Other Racist Remarks’ & Threatened Her Life While Brandishing a Firearm
Lee Merritt said that Austin Shuffield called his client the n-word and threatened her. He was the aggressor throughout the incident, according to Merritt. He said his client did tell Shuffield she would use pepper spray on him, but Merritt added, “Of course she threatened him with mace. Austin was hurling racial slurs at her and threatening violence when she did nothing wrong. She was just trying to protect herself.”
He said she was “verbally accosted” and Shuffield used “racial slurs and other racist remarks,” along with threatening her life while brandishing a firearm, KTVT-TV reports.
Dai Lee told WFAA-TV, “I got scared. I was like, ‘You have a gun?’ The first thing I thought to do was call the police. He charged at me, and he just kept hitting me, and I was like, ‘OK, OK, OK.’ Watching that video literally makes me cry. All I could do was try and protect myself. He literally sat there and beat me like a man.”
She added, “It didn’t even have to go that far, I just keep thinking why? It wasn’t that serious of a situation.” In a Facebook post, Merritt wrote:
According to the victim, she was approached by Shuffield, who was unknown to her at the time, and verbally accosted with racial slurs and other racist remarks alleging she blocked a parking lot exit with her car. When she asked Shuffield to back up his vehicle in order for her to move her car he refused. She then got into her car and drove on to the curb in order to clear the path. Shuffield, nevertheless, approached her vehicle a second time and continue to verbally berate and physically intimidate her. At some point during the altercation, Shuffield brandished a firearm and threatened the life of the victim. She, in turn, pulled out her phone in told Shuffield she was calling the police. Shuffield responded by launching a vicious assault against the woman, first slapping her phone from her hands and, when she attempted to push him away, launching a violent barrage of punches to her head causing significant injuries.
Merritt told reporters at a press conference that they are calling for federal hate crime charges against Shuffield, along with state-level aggravated assault charges. He also plans to file a federal civil rights lawsuit.
“We are seeking federal hate crime and aggravated assault charges against Shuffield,” Merritt told reporters. “Until he is rearrested, Ms. Lee is not safe. While we appreciate that it’s a process we want to see new charges moved forward and that steps are being taken to ensure [Shuffield] is not a danger to her or other members of his community.”
A protest was held Sunday, March 24, in Deep Ellum, with about 70 members of the community joining activists in calling for felony charges, including hate crimes, to be brought against Shuffield. Dominique Alexander, a civil rights activist who founded Next Generation Action Network and organized the protest, told the media they will continue protesting until he is charged with hate crime and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. “Those are both felonies. Those charges are adequate with what we saw,” he said.
“We have to stand in solidarity because too many times, as people of color, we don’t have any wins,” community activist Olinka Green told the Dallas Morning News. “We are going to let this sister know that we are going to stand in solidarity with her.”
Alexander added, “We have to continue to be vigilant against racism in this city. And we have to stop pretending that racism doesn’t happen in this city.”
Activist Lelani Russell told the Dallas Morning News, “Had it been a white woman and a black man, we would not be having this conversation.”
3. Shuffield Is Originally From Yantis, Texas, & Went to Marine Military Academy & Texas Tech University
Austin Shuffield is originally from Yantis, Texas, according to public records. He attended Marine Military Academy in Harlingen, Texas, and then studied at Texas Tech University.
After the incident went viral, Shuffield deleted his Facebook, Instagram and other social media pages.
While Shuffield deleted his social media, screenshots of the page were saved. One screenshot from 2010 shows Shuffield using the n-word while making a disparaging comment about angry black women. Another Facebook post, shared on Reddit, was a meme of Nazi soldiers saluting, as one man doesn’t stands with his arms crossed. Shuffield wrote, “Don’t be this guy. Sad react only.”
Shuffield, whose Facebook profile featured a cover image of a meme of President Donald Trump, was a member of a local politics group on Facebook, a Reddit user said. The user wrote, “For me, the weird thing about all this is that I’ve actually interacted with this guy on FB before. We’re both members of a political discussion group (I’m fairly active in it, he used to be up until a few months ago) and I’ve had a few arguments with him. He was a fairly standard Trump-supporting ‘libertarian’ (in this case meaning ‘conservative who smokes pot’), a little too sympathetic to the far right, with some not-very-enlightened views on race and immigrants. I don’t know if I’d call him an actual Nazi, but then again this post (which he deleted even before he purged his whole Facebook) doesn’t help his case and isn’t a good look.”
In another Facebook post, Shuffield compared the Black Lives Matter movement to the KKK.
He also posted an anti-Islam article on Facebook in 2017:
In 2010, he made an anti-gay comment, writing that they should stop “playing the discrimination card,” while using a homophobic slur.
In 2016, he posted an angry comment about gun control advocates and women.
In 2016, he shared a post by Milo Yiannopoulos about an incident with a “black feminist NAACP president.”
He shared other posts about gun control and Trump:
Shuffield could not be reached for comment by Heavy and it is not clear if he has hired an attorney who could speak on his behalf.
4. He Was Fired From His Job at a Bartender at High & Tight Barbershop in Dallas & the Business’ Owners & Staff Have Expressed Outrage Over the Incident While Pledging to Help the Victim
Austin Shuffield was fired from his job as a bartender at High & Tight Barbershop, a 1920s-themed barbershop and speakeasy. The business said in a Facebook post, “We do not stand behind the actions that took place and hope that the full weight of the law comes down on this incident.” The page has since been deleted because of the attention the story brought.
Co-owner Braxton Martin told reporters on Sunday that Shuffield was immediately fired when they learned about his arrest. “It’s absolutely sickening what’s happened to this young lady and how she’s been treated, especially by an ex-employee of our’s,” Martin said. He said Shuffield wasn’t known to have violent tendencies.
“He was a very good employee. Somebody that never has anger or reached out in any way to hurt or be violent towards anyone,” Martin told KTVT-TV.
Martin closed the bar for a weekend after the incident went viral. “I’ve got staff members that are scared to come to work. We’re all received threats in some way, shape or form… death threats, death phone calls, people calling the shop saying they’re going to shoot us up for being a part of this.” Martin told reporters.
He said they plan to organize a fundraiser for the victim, but details on that haven’t been finalized.
Martin added, “We do not stand behind Austin Shuffield or his actions. That’s the most disgusting thing we’ve seen.”
5. Dai Lee Is Still Recovering From Her Injuries & Says All She Wants Is ‘Justice’
Dai Lee is still recovering from her injuries, she told reporters March 25 at a press conference, according to The Daily Beast. “My body still hurts. Everything still hurts,” Lee said. A GoFundMe has been started to help her with legal and medical expenses.
Lee Merritt told reporters, “She is still recovering and has been to the ER at least three times since the incident. Last night, she had increased pressure in her head, consistent nausea and a really bad headaches from the attack.”
Earlier, Merritt wrote on Facebook, “She is currently hospitalized and recovering from the injuries she sustained in the attack including post concussion syndrome and cranial swelling.”
The case has drawn national attention, with activists like Shaun King calling for justice and celebrities sharing the video and demanding hate crime charges. Rapper TI was among those who spoke out to call for the community to rally around Lee:
Lee told KTVT-TV she is still in fear for her life because Shuffield was released from custody. She has been staying in hotels as a precaution, she told reporters. “Not being able to eat not, (not) being able to sleep, it’s always on my mind,” Lee said on March 25. “I’m scared. I don’t know who’s following me, who’s behind me, who’s watching. He has pictures of my car, maybe my license plate.”
Her attorney, Lee Merritt, told the news station, “He was walking around the car with his phone out possibly getting her license plate which may help him track down where she lives. Until he is re-arrested, Ms. Lee is not safe.” He added, “Here in Dallas, we are tired of seeing this kind of attack against black woman specifically. Racial violence is on the rise in the U.S. and this latest incident is just a reflection of a larger problem that needs to be addressed.”
Lee told reporters, “I don’t like the attention. I want justice, but all the extra attention is not important to me.”