Family of robbers say HPD didn't have to kill them

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Mother of robbery suspect says police didn't have to shoot him.

There's new information about a fatal officer-involved shooting on Houston's north side last week.

A gang of five armed robbers were cornered by police where four of the five were shot and two of them were killed.

Now, family of one of the suspects killed and the one that survived tell Eyewitness News that there's more to the story than police are telling.

Those families of the accused say they absolutely don't condone the robbery the young men were caught committing.

In fact, they say they're downright angry and disappointed but feel that no one had to die.

"He says he had his hands up. He say they started to run and they stopped, say he held his hands up and they just shot," says Sandra Nelms.

Sandra Nelms says her son's version of the fatal officer-involved shooting in the 11300 block of the North Freeway last Thursday night is very different from the police version.

Police say a tactical unit followed the group of five all day as they went from car to car casing potential targets to rob. When they robbed Affordable Furniture, police say they ran out and pointed guns at the officers. That's when officers shot, killing Christopher Nelms and Scott Bennett.

Sandra Nelms shared parts of her conversation with her son from her first visit with him in Harris County Jail.

"I told him to tell the truth, be honest with yourself. You're in this situation so you can't do nothing but tell the truth, don't lie about anything. If they shot a gun, if they had a gun, or if you had one," says Nelms. "He say no mama. He say no one shot a gun. No one pointed a gun."

Both of the men who were killed were shot multiple times. According to the Medical Examiner, Scott Bennett's wounds included shots to the neck, chest and back. Family claims Christopher Nelms was shot in the back too and Sandra Nelms says her son was also shot in the back.

"If someone did point a gun at them, they could've shot him in the leg, got them to the ground, then do whatever else they had to do besides open up on them like they did, killing them," she says.

The head of the Houston Police Officers Union says he believes the officers were completely justified.

"This isn't TV," Ray Hunt explains. "We can't shoot the gun out of people's hands. We can't just shoot in the kneecap. We shoot at center mass. That's the biggest target because in a stressful situation that's the most likely thing you're going to be able to shoot."

Hunt says officers don't shoot to kill. They shoot to stop the threat, and sometimes that means suspects are shot in the back, and sometimes the suspects don't survive.

"You've got several officers there who had them under surveillance all day. If a person runs out of a business and is running toward an officer with his gun, of course someone sitting behind them is going to be completely justified in using deadly force to stop that threat, and it may be in the back," says Hunt. "It would also be completely justified if you've got someone who's running toward a potential hostage, running toward another business with a gun in their have to stop that threat as well."

HPD told us initially that it was unclear whether the suspects actually fired at officers. I asked for an update today, and they say they didn't have one, and that it's still under investigation by Homicide, Internal Affairs, and the DA's Office
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