Questions still surround fatal shooting of double amputee


One of the biggest is how did a man with one arm and one leg, in a wheelchair, manage to corner a Houston police officer? And why did another officer reach for his gun, rather than his Taser?

We are getting a better picture of what two HPD officers were dealing with when they arrived at the Healing Hands assisted home care about 2am Saturday. An instructor who trains aspiring officers also walks us through the levels of force officers are taught to use.

Eyewitness News got a first view of the room where two HPD officers confronted a double amputee in a wheelchair, threatening to kill them with a shiny object. It turned out to be a silver ballpoint pen.

After allegedly lunging at one officer with the pen, a second officer, M. Marin, shot the wheelchair-bound man in the head.

At the foot of the bed is where Claunch, 45, was pronounced dead. He was mentally ill.

Mike Emanuel is an instructor for University of Houston's Basic Peace Officer Course. Officers are taught, he says, to use one of three levels of force depending on the threat. The first is a physical take down.

"Whether I go into soft contact, which is joint manipulation control, medium contact would be your pepper spray, your asp, your Taser and then lethal force would be a firearm," Emanuel.

HPD can't yet say if the officers knew Claunch was armed with a pen since they were dispatched after a 911 call. HPD does confirm both officers were equipped with a Taser and tasked with disarming a double amputee in a wheelchair.

"When you have two officers on one suspect, it does make it easier on both officers to subdue a suspect without lethal force?" we asked Emanuel.

"Absolutely," he said. "The more officers the better."

One thing Emanuel makes clear, it's always a live situation, where there can be little time to react.

"These are all judgment decisions that officers make in a quarter of a second and it's very hard to second guess this," Emanuel said.

HPD Chief Charles McClelland has asked the local FBI office to monitor and investigate this incident along with HPD's Internal Affairs Division.

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