Shooting of mentally ill amputee angers activists

September 24, 2012 8:41:46 PM PDT
A double-amputee was shot and killed by a Houston police officer. Now the FBI is getting involved in the investigation, and people are protesting, upset that the shooting happened in the first place.

The man killed was mentally ill and in a wheelchair. He'd been staying at a group home in southeast Houston. With posters raised outside Houston police headquarters, a small group of community activists spent Monday afternoon demanding answers.

Community activist Kofi Taharka asked, "How many more lives have to be lost? How many more people have to be brutalized?"

This group is outraged over the HPD officer who shot and killed Brian Claunch inside a group home on the 4000 block of Polk on Saturday.

"This man wants us to believe that a man in a wheelchair with a writing pen in his hand was such a threat, that he felt deadly force was necessary," Taharka said.

These activists are among many now questioning whether Officer M. Marin went too far that night during a disturbance call. The group home's manager told me Claunch was bipolar and schizophrenic and had a bad attitude at times. He told me Claunch was known to police because he'd called HPD for him twice before.

"This man should not be dead," said community activist Quanell X. "This man should have gotten the help that he deserves. Where is the crisis intervention team that they promised would come out when there is a mental health call?"

Houston Chief of Police Charles McClelland issued the following statement:

    "On Saturday, September 22, 2012, officers from the Houston Police Department responded to a call for service involving a disturbance with a violent person at 4309 Polk Street. During the response to the incident, an officer discharged his firearm resulting in the death of a citizen, Brian C. Claunch.

    The Houston Police Department places the highest value on human life and events like these are tragic and unfortunate for everyone involved. All Houston Police Officers receive mandatory crisis intervention training specifically dealing with persons experiencing mental crisis. As we do in all instances of this nature, the Houston Police Department's Homicide and Internal Affairs Divisions, and the Harris County District Attorneys Office, Civil Rights Division, are investigating this incident.

    In addition, I have also asked the local office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to monitor and investigate this incident. As I have done throughout my tenure as Police Chief, to the extent I can, the Houston Police Department will be open and transparent in all aspects of our response to this tragic event.

    It is my desire to have everyone reserve judgment until all the facts and evidence in this investigation have been gathered."

Quannel said, "We can't trust one thing coming out of their mouth."

Mayor Annise Parker also issued a statement on Monday:

    "I want to express my condolences to Mr. Claunch's family and friends. As for any comment on the circumstances, there is a process in place to determine if the officer acted appropriately. In addition to the usual internal review, Chief McClelland has taken the additional step of asking the local office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) within the U.S. Department of Justice to monitor our investigation of this incident. Until the facts are in place, it is premature to draw any conclusions. I have utmost respect for the very difficult job of our Houston Police Department. However, if there were mistakes made, I know the police chief will take appropriate action."

Houston Councilman Ed Gonzales told us back in June the city council passed an ordinance that will eventually allow the city to better regulate group homes as a public safety matter.

Activists are planning a protest outside City Hall for noon Tuesday.


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