Attorneys Take A Hard Look At Houston Police Department’s Perfect Record Of Justified Shootings

Will Houston police officers be the next ones to crack down on?

Houston police officers are being scrutinized for their historical pattern of shootings, according to the Associated Press, by attorneys and activists who are handling at least a few wrongful death cases in the city.

“Nearly every officer-involved shooting is deemed justified by the law enforcement agency, and grand juries tend to concur.”

The report takes the example of 27-year-old Alan Pean, who survived a hospital shooting wherein he was “suffering a mental health crisis and was stumbling around naked and unarmed in a Houston hospital.”

“If it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone. It’s important for people to be aware that these things happen.”

This case is apparently central to their cause, and last Tuesday Pean filed a lawsuit against the city of Houston, the hospital, and the two officers involved, as well as others, according to the report.

Two Houston police officers and St. Joseph Medical Center in Houston are being sued.
In many widely reported incidents of police brutality and excessive force, it is said that police officers are not disciplined, which was apparently the case for the hospital shooting that took place in August 2015.

The report says that a grand jury did not indict Pean for the two counts of aggravated assault of a police officer — which is commonly the charge brought against many — and a third charge of reckless driving, which were all dropped.

The New York Times reported on this case earlier this year, detailing the damage he caused to a few vehicles when he was suffering from bi-polar disorder. He was parking, and when security was called, he was put in in-patient care, where he was shot.

“I thought of the hospital as a beacon, a safe haven,” said Mr. Pean, who survived the wound just millimeters from his heart last Aug. 27. “I can’t quite believe that I ended up shot.”

The same attorneys for Pean’s case are also representing the family of 38-year-old Kenny Releford, who was killed in 2012 by a Houston police officer when he was suffering a psychotic episode. That officer was cleared for that shooting as well.

That case is apparently set for trial this October.

How many lawsuits are currently suing the Houston Police Department?
AP tried to get a response for their report from the Houston police, but they were referred to city officials. They were reportedly referred to officials who said they could not comment, as the cases they were referring to are currently in litigation.

But they did report some of the statements they got through the lawsuit, one from an officer Frank Webb, who provides mental health training in the Houston police department.

“… I do not know of any (crisis intervention training) standard that would prohibit an officer from taking reasonable actions to protect him/herself or another from the risk of serious bodily injury or death posed by the actions of a person simply because that person is suffering from mental illness.”

Assistant police chief Kese Mattie Provost denied that the investigations conducted internally or otherwise are there to cover up officer misconduct.

The president of the Houston Police Officers’ Union, Ray Hunt, was even more defensive about the claims.

“This is not something that an officer wakes up in the morning and says, ‘Oh, I hope I get involved in a shooting today.’ People… who claim that’s the mentality of police officers are just showing their ignorance.”

In February, ABC 13 reported on the various police unions who were looking to boycott Beyoncé’s concerts. The same Ray Hunt was asked about boycotting the concert in May.

“Yes we do have officers saying they want to boycott. Clearly if it means Beyoncé believes that police officers are routinely killing innocent people, we’re going to be very disturbed about that.”

While the AP source refers to a report filed by The Houston Chronicle that says all shootings by their police are cleared as justifiable, the Texas Observer has collected those numbers and links as well.

If the numbers are right, it goes to show that not only have more police gotten away with shooting civilians, but that they too can boycott when they want and deny they’re ever wrong, which should be taken into consideration in a society that wants more transparency.

[Image by Eric Gay/AP Photo]