Suspect's dad questions officer's use of force

May 27, 2010 2:52:19 AM PDT
The father of a burglary suspect who was shot by an off-duty Houston police officer is questioning that officer's use of force. He thinks the officer used excessive force, but the officer says he was afraid for his own safety. The suspect's father realizes there might not be much sympathy out there for his son. After all, he was caught in the act of breaking into a police officer's vehicle. But read about how his son was shot and you decide.

With his son upstairs in a hospital room, Gene Horace has a lot of questions.

"It just doesn't make sense," he said.

Gene Horace II, 20, was shot by an off-duty Houston police officer, and according to his father, where he was shot, "There's a wound in the back, and then there's an exit wound underneath his chest."

He is suspicious.

"It looks like an overly aggressive move made by officer," the father said.

According to HPD, Officer Jason Rice caught the young man rummaging inside his personal vehicle late Tuesday night. Rice identified himself as a police officer, but Horace took off. A foot chase followed.

"At some point during the pursuit, the suspect turned toward the officer in an aggressive manner and he reached into his waistband as if he is trying to pull a weapon out," said HPD spokesman Victor Senties. "The officer, concerned for his safety, discharges his duty weapon at least one time."

Horace didn't have a weapon. His father says he was just pulling up his pants. He's not here to defend his son's actions.

"What he did was wrong. I agree with that, but I'm trying to understand the use of deadly force," Horace, Sr. said.

He questions how he could have been shot in the back.

"It tells me he was fleeing, and it tells me that the officer was not in fear for his life," he said.

Since the shooting happened in the county, the sheriff's office is investigating, but they won't reveal where their investigation shows Horace was shot.

Houston Police Union President Gary Blankenship says don't be quick to judge.

"It's real easy to sit here after the fact and speculate on all these things the officer should've done, could've done or would've done," Blankenship said, "But the fact is, officers are placed in situations where they have to make split-second decisions, and if they mess up, they could be killed."

Horace says he's lucky his son wasn't killed and wonders whether the officer's decision came from emotion.

"If it was someone else's vehicle, would he have acted differently?" questioned Horace, Sr.

Rice is on paid administrative leave, which is standard procedure after officer-involved shootings. HPD says he's a first-year officer and while the investigation isn't yet finished, the district attorney's office said the case likely will be referred to a grand jury for them to decide whether what the officer did was a crime.

Meanwhile, Gene Horace does have a criminal record with misdemeanors, including burglary of a motor vehicle and evading arrest.


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