HPD officer fatally shoots man near downtown Houston

October 11, 2012 4:10:51 PM PDT
A Houston police officer shot and killed an unarmed man, whose family says he was mentally ill. Investigators say the man had already attacked three people, but neighbors still wonder why he had to be shot.

It all started with the suspect breaking into a neighbor's home in the middle of the night. But even that neighbor thinks the officer could have handled the situation differently.

Neighbors along Sampson at Reeves in the Third Ward say that Kenneth Releford was a handyman in the area. They say they knew he was mentally ill and they claim they were trying to tell police that when he was shot. Now the man who called 911 is questioning whether he made the right decision.

For the family who lives in a house on Francis Street, they are working to put things back to normal.

"I feel like it's my fault because i called, but I wasn't expecting it to go this far," said neighbor Roger Abbs.

Abbs, 61, was emotional when he recalled how he and his 87-year-old father were inside their house Wednesday night along with his nephews, ages 12 and 14, when all of a sudden their front door was kicked in by Releford, their 28-year-old neighbor and friend.

"It was something wrong with him, I believe," said one witness.

Police say Releford, whose father told Eyewitness News his son suffered from schizophrenia, got into a struggle with the elderly grandfather after police say the suspect walked into a back bedroom and groped one of the boys.

Abbs called 911 as Releford left the house. Minutes later police arrived and, according to HPD, an officer told Releford to stop.

"At that time the suspect continues to advance towards him very quickly on foot, with his left hand behind his back the entire time," said Houston Police Department spokesperson John Cannon. "The suspect is probably within a little more than arm length away, about five feet or so, and that's when the officer discharges his duty weapon and strikes the suspect."

But witnesses say they saw something different.

One witness said, "All I know is that the boy had his hands in sight."

"He had his hands up like this," witness Lisa Arowshere said.

Now neighbors and the suspect's father are questioning if deadly force was necessary.

"To me he could have tased him, to me, other than shoot," said Kenneth's father Audry Releford.

"People out here saying please don't shoot him because he is mentally retarded, even the man whose house that he kicked the door in," Arowshere recalled.

Releford died at the hospital. Police say he ignored repeated demands when Officer J. Roseman told him to stop. We asked why Officer Rosemon didn't use a stun gun. We were told that, as always in officer-involved shootings, that's under investigation. We also asked if someone from HPD's mental health crisis response team responded to the scene and officials confirm that no one did.


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