I grew up in Houston.  Around and embedded in Houston are a number of small cities and villages with their own police forces.  You generally really, really did not want to encounter these folks.  They often hired the dregs of large police forces, preferentially taking the hard cases even the larger forces could not tolerate.  I remember the small village next to my high school hired one of the Houston Police officers who beat Joe Campos Torres to death (after Texas courts gave the two leaders of the beating probation and at $1 fine for killing the Vietnam vet).  These police forces are famous for their hostility to non-whites.

So it comes as no surprise, but never-the-less with great irritation, to see another such Houston-area independent city (in this case Bellaire) refusing to punish criminal officers who gunned down an innocent man in his own driveway for the apparent crime of driving while black

Cop runs license check on a suspicious vehicle. Although they apparently committed no traffic violation, cop insists that his decision to run a check had nothing to do with the fact that the occupants were black, and happened to be driving in an affluent, predominately white neighborhood. The cop’s partner apparently then enters the wrong license number, which returns a car that had been reported stolen. So cop follows car into driveway, which happens to be the home of the driver’s parents, where he lives. Cop approaches driver and occupant with his gun drawn. Driver’s parents come out to see what’s causing the commotion. Cop roughs up driver’s mother. Driver gets up from ground to tell cop to lay off of his mother. Cop shoots driver, a full 32 seconds after pulling into the driveway.

The driver, who was unarmed, will now carry a bullet in his liver for the rest of his life. The cop was charged with first degree aggravated assault. A jury acquitted him. Now this week, U.S. District Judge Melinda Harmon dismissed the driver’s lawsuit against both the cop that fired his gun and the cop who entered the wrong license plate number, citing qualified immunity. According to Harmon, the officer acted “reasonably,” and moreover, wrongly accusing an unarmed man of stealing a car, pointing a gun at him, then shooting him in the liver, “did not violate [his] constitutional rights.”

Both cops are back on the force. The guy with the bullet in his liver? Tough luck. He’ll be paying his own medical bills.


  1. Mark2:

    When is the march?

    Are Jessie Jackson, Al Sharpton, Louis Farahkan coming?

    Does this man look like he could have been President Obama's son?

  2. Jim:

    I live in Houston. This embarrassment as well as the issue with the Wal Mart video incident make me glad that my skin is white and I look like an overweight, middle-aged business man. Well, I am overweight and middle-aged business man. You can bet I will never be harrassed or shot in my neighborhood.

  3. me:

    Ouch. The worst part of this is that this is not a case of "no prosecution" but one in which case the justice systems fails utterly at addressing a horrible wrong.

  4. el coronado:

    You must have gone to Memorial HS.

  5. a_random_guy:

    I'm not quite sure what to make of this one. Note that a jury acquitted the cop, and a federal judge dismissed the civil suit. In both cases, something independent of the local police force and prosecutor's office.

  6. dullgeek:

    I think this may be the first time I've read Coyote seem to favor more centralized government rather than less centralized. Coyote, Does this mean you are skeptical of the anarcho-capitalist idea that police and national defense could be privatized?

    Maybe a better question is how do you propose that the legitimate protection services that police provide (often very badly) be provided well?

  7. Rick Caird:

    "dullgeek", you have clearly misinterpreted Coyote. His argument is that cops, like everyone else, should be responsible for their errors. How you mange to read anything else into the post, is a complete mystery.

  8. caseyboy:

    Is there more to this story? As Mark2 says, where is Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton? When they see black blood in the water they usually come running. Did something in the facts scare them off? And as a-random-guy said a jury and then a judge passed on the "crime".

  9. mahtso:

    "His argument is that cops, like everyone else, should be responsible for their errors."

    Accepting that this is his argument: (1) they were acquitted of criminal charges by a jury, so the questions are: do we have faith in the jury system? And, if not, what system should replace it? (2) As to the dismissal of the civil suit: What would be the effect of changing the law to eliminate qualified immunity for the police? Would it be a good idea to do so?

  10. Goober:

    I wonder if there isn't more to this story than meets the eye. One of the accounts that i read on it detailed the mother physically grabbing the officer, who was (mistakenly, but still) in the middle of a felony vehicle stop. I would expect him to respond by restraining her. THe same account had the kid get up and assault the officer. Whether this justified him shooting the kid or not is totally up for discussion (I would say no on first blush, but if he had his gun out already because of the felony stop, a physical assault would warrant deadly force because you can't get into a physical altercation with a gun drawn without risking your gun being taken away during the altercation.)

    I'm not defending the officers. However, I wonder if the story that I read is the one that was given to the jury. If that is true, then how can you say that the jury should have convicted them of anything? The fact is, upon my first reading of the accounting of the facts in the case, I couldn't really convict the cops, either. Fire them? Yes. But not convict.

    As for civil liability, that is another matter entirely. I would say that felony stopping someone because of a mistake is a civil matter all on it's own, much less escalating that into a shooting.

    I think what we need is an actual accounting of what happened. Did the mother make physical contact with the cop? If so, then he was justified in restraining her. If not, then he was not.

    Did the kid stand up and protest, or did he go after the police officer?

    We need to whole story here before we can really make a call, in my opinion.

  11. pet:

    Step 1. Obey and respect the police.

    Step 2. Clear up any misunderstanding by working through the facts.

    Step 3 (optional). Go all batshiat crazy all you want - afterwards.

    Stupid people seem to have ongoing problems with getting step 1 and step 3 confused.

  12. el coronado:

    You DO realize, Pet, that your little rules are a) pretty much the way sheep have to deal with their butchers and b) not really different from the 'rules' of surviving an encounter with a street gang, right?

    You OK with that? Cops as Crips? "Disrespect" gets you beaten, tazed, shot? Stupid people (including, sadly, 99% of all cops) seem to have ongoing problems with the difference between a 'police force' and a 'badge-wielding, trigger-happy, roid-raged street gang'. Pity.

  13. pet:

    uh. lolz wut? sheep. butchers. street gangs. cops crips. roid rage.

    Great, ummm advice err... Got it! I stand corrected! ; )

  14. Not Sure:

    "Step 1. Obey and respect the police."

    I always suspected that whole "protect and serve" thing was as big a joke as politicians claiming to be "public servants".

    If you want respect, you act towards your employers in a way that demonstrates that you deserve it. Police these days (enough of them, anyway) don't act in such a fashion.

  15. Eric Wilner:

    Now, here's something I don't get: when the "car reported stolen" response came back, did it include a description of the reported-stolen car? If not, then why the heck not?
    Returning a description seems like it ought to be standard practice, but I've heard enough tales of people getting tickets in the mail on the basis of mis-entered license numbers to suspect that this basic sanity check never occurs to the people who design police IT systems.
    The same applies to names: years ago, I knew someone who occasionally had problems due to sharing a name with someone who was wanted for murder, despite a complete lack of physical resemblance. And then there's the no-fly list-of-names... it just seems like there's no interest in getting it right.