Houston police fired their guns at civilians more than 100 times in the last five years, resulting in numerous injuries and deaths, but never in charges against the officers.
From 2008 to 2012, officers shot 121 people, 52 of them fatally.
Police say their lives or others were threatened in all those incidents, although more than a quarter of the civilians shot by the Houston Police Department during that time were unarmed. Of the unarmed people shot, 10 died. They include a mentally ill double amputee in a wheelchair and a Navy veteran diagnosed with schizophrenia.
Officers shot unarmed civilians who “reached” or “grabbed” for their waistlines — or held objects such as cellphones or a hairbrush that police mistook for weapons.
Harris County grand juries have cleared HPD officers of criminal wrongdoing in all shootings from 2008 to 2012 that they have reviewed so far, a Houston Chronicle investigation has found.
The last time an HPD officer was charged for a shooting was in March 2004, when Arthur Carbonneau was indicted in the death of 14-year-old Eli Escobar Jr. Carbonneau was convicted of negligent homicide in that case. Since then, Houston police officers have been cleared by Harris County grand juries 288 consecutive times for shootings.
The newspaper also found that most HPD officers receive less shooting range training annually than what national and international police agencies recommend. And when it comes to fulfilling that basic training requirement, the department appears lagging. Houston police officers currently on the force have been cited 405 times by their superiors for failing to undergo annual firearms qualifications, according to an HPD database of sustained internal affairs complaints.
Very few HPD patrol vehicles, meanwhile, have dashboard cameras, denying officers and the public a proven method of documenting whether or not the use of force is appropriate. Jeff Monk, manager of HPD’s open records unit, said he was not aware of any HPD shooting from 2008 to 2012 that was captured on a dashboard camera.
Wednesday, November 20, 2013
'Bulletproof': One quarter of suspects shot by Houston PD unarmed, officers hardly ever disciplined
Following up on reporting this summer by Emily DePrang at The Texas Observer, the Houston Chronicle is in the middle of a three-part series on shootings by the Houston Police Department called "Bulletproof." So far they've published parts one and two, with part three coming on Sunday. Here's how part one opened: