Houston police using bean bag rounds with mentally ill, sensitive suspects

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Houston police using less lethal tactics to subdue suspects. (KTRK)

Following a Freedom of Information Act request, the Houston Police department released body camera footage of a tense standoff between several officers and a man who wanted to die. The standoff resulted in the man being shot with several rounds of bean bag shots.

The incident happened on Jan. 3 in downtown Houston. Officers were dispatched to the scene of a man who was armed with a knife and claimed he "killed the whole north side."

The man can be heard saying, "I want to die. Shoot me." Officers are heard saying, "You have to let us help you."

At least five officers surrounded the man. Several officers were armed with taser guns, and one officer is seen in the video going to the back of his police SUV to grab a shotgun. The officer is seen loading it up with bean bag rounds. The ammo is used to stun its target, even though, if shot at the wrong spot on a person, can be lethal.

After a nearly 30 minute standoff with the suspect, officers decided to close in. The officer with the bean bag shotgun fires a shot, then another. Other officers move in and deploy tasers at the suspect who is still holding a knife and waving his arms. The tasers were unable to penetrate the suspect since he's wearing a leather jacket and jeans. More bean bag rounds are fired. One officer is seen in the body camera footage getting closer to the suspect. He fired his taser at the suspect's leg. The suspect finally puts his knife down and officers moved in to detain him.

"It was to me the best outcome we can possibly have," said Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo.

He said bean bag shotguns have been around for years and are used when officers request them. Acevedo said he wants the guns and other help to be on hand and ready when officers respond to a mental health crisis.

"I want to make sure that our response protocol includes a minimum number of officers, a mental health crisis intervention officer, and less lethal," said Acevedo.

The department has about 130 specially colored shotguns in circulation. Every officer is trained to use it. The rounds are made of a small Kevlar sock, filled with lead pellets. The shot is meant to stun its target.

"I don't want to create a false perception that every time someone has a knife that officers are going to because every situation is unique," said Acevedo. "We use them when appropriate to try to save lives."
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