By Aria Jones and Lana Ferguson
More than three and a half years after cellphone video captured a woman being attacked in Deep Ellum, the man accused of assaulting her was found guilty of simple assault and obstruction.
Austin Shuffield, 34, could spend up to 11 years behind bars on charges of assault and obstruction for attacking L’Daijohnique Lee in March 2019. Shuffield was on trial for an aggravated assault charge, which the jury acquitted him of, and instead found him guilty of the lesser assault charge.
Cellphone footage of the incident showed Shuffield, a bartender, slapping Lee’s phone away and punching her repeatedly during an argument.
On Thursday, Lee began crying as the video played in court. She testified that she thought Shuffield was going to beat her to death, WFAA-TV (Channel 8) reported.
Lee said the attack left her with a concussion and partial hearing loss, according to KXAS-TV (NBC5). But a doctor told jurors he had diagnosed a head injury, not a concussion, KDFW-TV (Channel 4) reported.
Jurors also watched a video of Shuffield explaining his side of the story to the police, telling them why he grabbed his pistol and saying that Lee told him she was going to call her friends to “shoot me up,” NBC5 reported. Lee denied that claim in court.
Philip Wishard, who posted the video of the fight on Facebook, testified he heard Shuffield use the N-word, KDFW reported.
“It made me feel bad. It was disgusting,” Wishard said of watching the incident. “He beat her like she was a man.”
Shuffield was expected to testify but decided not to, and jurors received the case Friday afternoon after hearing closing arguments, NBC5 reported.
Defense attorney Rebecca Pearlstein told jurors they would find Shuffield not guilty if they read the law carefully, adding that it was “not a verdict based on your feelings” or a “verdict based on sympathy for Ms. Lee.”
Special prosecutor Russell Wilson also asked jurors to read the law carefully and to return guilty verdicts, NBC5 reported.
“He wanted to engage with her,” Wilson said.
When officers arrived at the 2800 block of Elm Street about 4:30 a.m. March 21, 2019, Lee told them she’d been driving the wrong way on Elm, according to an arrest-warrant affidavit. Shuffield, who worked at a bar nearby, got out of his truck and asked her to move because she was blocking him in a parking lot, she said.
Lee said she pulled into the lot and Shuffield started taking pictures of her license plates. They argued and Shuffield slapped Lee’s phone from her hands as she tried to call 911, the affidavit says. He then hit her multiple times.
Shuffield told police he hit Lee in self-defense after she threatened to use pepper spray on him and that she broke his truck’s rear windshield.
According to the affidavit, Shuffield pulled a .45-caliber Glock out of his waistband during the altercation and later told officers he had been “in fear for his life.”
Shuffield was originally arrested on misdemeanor counts of assault and interference with an emergency call, but the footage of the incident led to public outcry for stronger charges.
In November 2019, Shuffield was indicted on two felony charges — aggravated assault and obstruction — as well as misdemeanor counts of assault and unlawful carrying of a weapon.
Wilson, the special prosecutor, was named to handle the charges against Shuffield after his attorneys alleged that the Dallas County district attorney’s office had shown bias in how it dealt with the case.
Police initially issued an arrest warrant for Lee because she admitted smashing Shuffield’s windshield. The DA’s office ultimately declined to prosecute the criminal mischief charge against Lee.