ABC13 town hall highlights rash of deadly Houston area domestic violence cases

Friday, October 13, 2023
Action 13: Fighting Domestic Violence town hall
Join Eyewitness News anchors Mayra Moreno and Rosie Nguyen as we explore the impact of guns on domestic violence cases across the Houston area.

Victims advocates are sounding the alarm after a rash of deadly shootings involving intimate partners and family members in the Houston area.

"It touches community members, churches, children," Houston Police Lt. Julie Pleasant said. "It's a cycle of violence."

In the last month, episodes of gun violence have left four women dead, stretching from the Humble area and Rosenberg, to northwest Harris County.

Thursday, Eyewitness News anchor Mayra Moreno and Race & Culture reporter Rosie Nguyen gathered a panel of leaders for an Action 13 town hall, answering your questions, and connecting you with resources that can save your life or the lives of people you love.

If you need help getting out of a domestic violence situation, call the Houston Area Women's Center 24/7 hotline at 713-528-2121 or call AVDA at 713-224-9911. You can also visit click here to chat with an advocate online. If you are deaf or hard of hearing and need help, call 713-528-3625.

During Thursday's town hall, we heard from a survivor of domestic violence whose husband of 10 years threatened to kill her and her children.

Angela Johnson said her biggest mistake was telling her now ex-husband she was going to leave, because she was soon staring down the barrel of a gun.

"That's when he said, 'If you leave, I'll burn down the house. You can't leave me. And if you do, I'll burn down the house.' And I was like, 'No, you wouldn't do that, and even with the kids in it?' He said, 'Yes, I will burn down the house with you and the kids in it.'"

In the Houston area, data shows 73% of deaths caused by intimate partners from 2019-2022 involved guns.

The Harris County Sheriff's Office said there have been 16 domestic violence-related murders in the county's unincorporated areas so far this year.

Emilee Whitehurst, president and CEO of Houston Area Women's Center, called this a crisis moment, especially in the wake of loosened gun restrictions.

More concerning, Whitehurst said, is a February decision by the Texas Supreme Court, allowing domestic violence suspects under protective orders to keep their firearms.

While HAWC awaits action by the U.S. Supreme Court, Whitehurst said the Texas decision is already having a big impact.

"Survivors up to now had recourse," Whitehurst said. "The court could order that person to surrender their gun, and now we are faced with a moment in this country where survivors who are in danger will not have that legal resource, if the Supreme Court decides in favor of (Rahimi vs. United States)."

Monday, HPD Chief Troy Finner said that as of Sept. 30, the number of domestic violence cases in Houston has decreased by 17%.

However, domestic violence-related murders still account for 18% of homicides and 9.8 of all reported crimes in the city.

Lt. Pleasant, who leads HPD's Domestic Abuse Response Team (DART), said it will take a village to bring these numbers down even further.

"Domestic violence is one of the most dangerous calls for service for law enforcement. It's not just any violent crime, it's emotional violent crime, it's a community effect violent crime. We've talked about, it's a public health crime," Pleasant said. "What we need to do as a community is to do things different."

Our Action 13 town hall also included guidance from Amy Smith, deputy director of the Harris County Domestic Violence Coordinating Council, and Maisha Colter, CEO of AVDA Texas.

You can watch the town hall on Thursday at 7 p.m., anywhere they stream Eyewitness News, including Roku and Fire TV. Just search "ABC13 Houston."