Video released of police firing at mistaken burglars

August 16, 2010 5:33:10 PM PDT
Things could've been a lot worse, when cops responded to what they thought was a break-in at a local bar last week. However, it was not a break-in and the man they shot at was the owner, not a burglar.

Bar owner Paul Brown is reliving his Friday the 13th nightmare when Houston police mistook him for a burglar and opened fire. It happened at Smokin' J's Sports Bar in the 500 block of Dixie Farm Road near Ellington Field.

Brown has watched his security video dozens of times since Friday morning.

"We came out right here. My truck was parked on the fence right there," said Brown. "You can see them right there, and they're checking my back doors."

One bullet hit the outside wall of his bar. The other hit a business clear across the street.

"It's a bad shot, and someone else could have been here," Brown said.

He says the Smokin' J's Sports Bar has been broken into four times in the last year, most recently just two weeks ago.

"I understand they have a job to do, but I think they should have had more information up front, and we should have been informed," Brown said.

But no one at HPD told him they would be conducting surveillence Friday morning.

It was all caught on security video. Around 4:15am last Friday morning, Brown and a few employees were inside working. While outside, Houston police were conducting surveillance. Hearing the noise, Brown grabbed his pistol, and headed out the back door with his manager.

"Cause they hear us unlocking the door, and right now they're already shooting. It's about two or three seconds," Brown told us as watched the video with us.

When we asked him if they identified themselves as police officers, Brown replied, "No."

You can see on the video how the manager gets on the ground, while Brown, hearing the shots, ran back inside. He comes out a few moments later, announcing that he was the bar owner. Both men were handcuffed, but Brown was still relieved.

"I'm glad no one was hurt, I'm glad it was over as far as the shooting was done," he said.

Brown says he never heard the officers identify themselves, something their attorney denies.

"Well, the officers, I met with them there at the scene, I'm confident that they did (identify themselves). It's for their protection and the citizen's protection," said Houston Police Union lawyer Sally Ring. "They legitimately, right or wrong, believe the individual with the gun was involved in criminal activity."

As for missing their target at such a close range?

"It's sort of a mixed blessing in this particular case," said Ring. "Believe it or not, the majority of officers have never even fired at a suspect."

Brown isn't sure what to do next. He never expected cameras that were designed to catch break-ins like this one two weeks ago instead captured police firing at him on Friday the 13th.

"It doesn't look good for them that we were eight, ten feet away and they couldn't hit anybody," Brown said. "That's bad for them. That's good for me."

Though neither Brown nor his manager were arrested, both were held for several hours. Brown still has the handcuff marks to remind him of the ordeal and the security video that makes him shudder.

"It should never have gotten to that point," he said.

Ring confirmed to us that both officers are back on the job, and that they are still working as members of HPD's Crime Reduction Unit. However, HPD would not comment on whether any policy was violated, only saying it's an ongoing investigation.


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