Austin Shuffield, the former High and Tight bartender accused of beating up a woman in a Deep Ellum parking lot last week, faces upgraded charges, the Dallas Police Department announced Thursday morning. Shuffield, initially charged with assault causing bodily injury and interfering with an emergency call, both misdemeanors, is now accused of unlawfully carrying a weapon, a Class A misdemeanor, and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, a second-degree felony. A grand jury will make the final decision on whether to indict Shuffield on the felony charge.
Video recorded before dawn last Thursday morning appears to show Shuffield, who was then employed as a bartender at High and Tight, attack L’Daijohnique Lee as she blocked the entrance to a parking lot after driving the wrong way on Elm Street in Deep Ellum. Holding what appears to be a pistol in his right hand, Shuffield appears to confront Lee, and then slaps her cellphone out of her hand. Lee then shoves or punches Shuffield before Shuffield repeatedly punches her with his right fist, knocking Lee to the ground.
Police officers cited Shuffield for public intoxication and charged him with the two misdemeanors. After being booked at Dallas County Jail, Shuffield quickly made $2,000 bail.
A video of the confrontation shot by a bystander went viral on the internet, leading to thousands of negative and frequently threatening comments on High and Tight's business page as well as its employees' personal pages. Online vigilantes threatened to stomp one bartender "with Austin," and Next Generation Action Network's Dominique Alexander threatened to "shut Deep Ellum down" if Shuffield wasn't charged with aggravated assault. Friday night, High and Tight owners decided to close the bar for the weekend.
Saturday night, several dozen protesters descended on Deep Ellum, calling for harsher charges against Shuffield.
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At a Monday press conference with civil rights attorney Lee Merritt, Lee told reporters that she has stayed in hotels since the incident because she fears Shuffield will track her down and attack her again. She's been to the hospital three times to seek treatment for her injuries. She declined to describe the attack as police and prosecutors continue to investigate Shuffield.
"I don't like the attention. I want justice. All the extra attention — it's really not important to me," Lee said.
Merritt said Thursday that he's happy with the new charges.
"We are pleased to learn about the additional felony charges against Austin Shuffield referred to the Dallas County District Attorney's Office by the DPD detectives," Merritt said. "Ms. Lee will fully cooperate with District Attorney John Creuzot, who has indicated that he would like to interview her directly in order to ensure a thorough presentation to the grand jury."