Officer opens fire on suspect during struggle

February 25, 2010 9:26:22 AM PST
A Houston police officer said he was forced to shoot when the suspect began to reach into his pants, as if to pull out a weapon. It happened around 11:30pm yesterday on Pederson near Noel in southeast Houston, just hours after city leaders met to discuss the use of deadly force within HPD.

The officer, Brenton Green, is a 15-year veteran of the force, and while the suspect is expected to survive, questions remain about exactly what happened when during the traffic stop.

This is the latest example of a Houston police officer pulling a deadly weapon on a suspect. The driver of this truck failed to pull over during a traffic stop and when he finally did, police say he wouldn't cooperate.

"He was acting very aggressively," said Victor Senties with the Houston Police Department. "He was being combative. He was being belligerent, and basically ignoring verbal commands to get out of the vehicle."

When the officer reached into the vehicle to pull him out, there was more resistance.

"As the struggle was going on, that's when the shot was fired," said Senties.

The Houston Police Department just released its latest data on police shootings yesterday. Twenty-nine people were shot in 2009 by Houston police officers. Fifteen died, and in the majority of those cases, the suspects were armed.

In last night's case, the officer fired, police say, because the suspect looked like he was reaching into his waistband, possibly for a weapon.

"Sometimes you're not in a situation, depending on the circumstances, where you can't wait until someone produces a weapon and points it at you," said acting Houston Police Department Chief C.A. McClelland.

HPD says while the number of deadly force incidents has not gone up or down dramatically in recent years, it is always trying to find what might keep these situations from getting to deadly force, asking questions like this...

"Does staffing issues, such as one officer versus two officers have an impact on the use of force?" asked McClelland yesterday. "I can say this, anecdotally or as you're looking through this report, the majority of deadly force incidents do occur with one officer on the scene."

That was the case late last night. A solo officer was on patrol. The case remains under investigation. The Houston Police Department has not yet said whether the suspect actually had a weapon, or if anything illegal was found inside the truck. There was a passenger in the vehicle. That man was taken into custody. No word on any charges.