A Houston, Texas police officer is under investigation after he was filmed fatally shooting an unarmed black man having a psychological emergency.
The incident took place earlier in March. Harris County Deputy Cameron Brewer encountered 34-year-old Danny Ray Thomas walking down the middle of the street with his pants down to his ankles.
Brewer’s dashboard camera recorded Thomas’ state of undress as he seemed to meander aimlessly in the middle of a street intersection with heavy traffic in the early afternoon.
Before the shooting, on the dashcam footage, you see Thomas walking toward an unidentified male civilian who aggressively pushes him back before an unidentified woman appears to intervene pulling the man away from Thomas as the officer’s arriving.
When Thomas spots the officer, he points at him and begins shuffling toward Brewer with his hands down by his sides. At this point, he does not appear to have anything in his hands.
Thomas disappears on the right side of the screen, and you can hear the officer screaming verbal commands for Thomas to stop advancing.
Brewer who is also African American can be heard shouting, “Get down, man! Get down on the ground.” He warns Thomas “I’ll shoot your ass!” and seconds later you hear a single gunshot.
After the shooting, you can see Brewer at the bottom edge of the video performing CPR on Thomas.
According to the Houston Chronicle, family members claim that Thomas was suffering from depression after the mother of his two young children allegedly drowned them in 2016. She’s currently on trial for their murder.
At a news conference, Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzales said that his department was taking the incident “extremely seriously” and is in the process of conducting a “thorough, transparent and expeditious” investigation.
The Sheriff also added that the Houston Police Department launched an independent investigation into the shooting since the incident took place within its jurisdiction.
The Sheriff confirmed that Brewer was carrying his department-issued taser at the time of the shooting, and had received non-lethal force training specifically tailored for dealing with mentally unstable individuals.
Brewer, who joined the department in 2016, was given a body camera just hours before the shooting, however, it was reportedly off while being charged in his car during the shooting.
Just after the shooting police issued a statement claiming that the officer fired his weapon in self-defense after Thomas ignored repeated commands by Brewer and had “continued to advance toward the deputy.”
“Fearing for his safety, the deputy discharged his duty weapon, striking Thomas once in the chest,” the statement continued, adding that Thomas had been spotted by witnesses “walking in the middle of the intersection with his pants around his ankles, talking to himself and hitting vehicles as they passed by” in the minutes before the shooting.
The Chronicle also released another video captured on a cell phone by a female bystander across the street.
#BREAKING Video obtained by the @HoustonChron shows the death of Danny Ray Thomas after he was shot by a Harris County deputy Thursday. No weapon was recovered at the scene, officials said. #hounews #breakingnews
— Robert Downen (@RobDownenChron) March 24, 2018
In her video, the woman filming remarks, “He’s about to get tased,” as Thomas approaches Brewer. However, after noticing that Thomas had his gun drawn the women says “Uh-uh, not yet, not yet, not yet.”
A van drives between the woman and the two men as you hear the fatal shot being fired.
“He shot that man,” the woman says in the video. “Why he shot him? Why he shot that man? He should’ve got Tased, he shouldn’t have shot that man.”
As you can imagine many people on the right are going to say that this shooting isn’t racially motivated because the police officer was black. But whether or not race was a factor, details of the shooting does provide one indisputable conclusion.
Mr. Thomas would probably still be alive today and getting the treatment he needed if this happened in Europe. When are Americans going to realize that this is not acceptable nor should it be normal? As it stands today, being mentally ill in America can be a death sentence if you encounter law enforcement.