WATCH: Harris County Sheriff Fires Deputy Who Shot and Killed Danny Ray Thomas

Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez speaks to reporters while releasing dash cam video of the fatal deputy-involved shooting of Danny Ray Thomas Monday, March 26, 2018 in Houston.

A deputy who shot and killed an unarmed man last month following a confrontation in north Houston was fired late Friday by Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez.

The deputy, Cameron Brewer, was terminated for failing to follow the department’s use of force policy when he shot and killed Danny Ray Thomas, 34, on March 22, sheriff officials confirmed. The officer was equipped with a Taser, but did not choose to use the electronic stunning device to try and subdue Thomas.

The fatal shot, fired about 20 seconds after Brewer ordered Thomas to get on the ground, can be heard on a recording of the confrontation. The officer’s dashboard camera did not capture video of the shooting, and his recently issued body camera was charging in the car when the shooting occurred.

Brewer had stopped his patrol unit to investigate an altercation at the intersection of Greens Road and Imperial Valley between Thomas and a passing motorist. Gonzalez has said Thomas was foaming at the mouth, and the video showed him walking in traffic with his pants down around his ankles.

An internal review of the March 22 deputy-involved shooting of Danny Ray Thomas is moving forward.

Media: Harris County Sheriff’s Office, Houston Chronicle
When Thomas ignored Brewer’s commands to stop and continued walking toward him, Brewer fired a single gunshot that fatally wounded Thomas, who was unarmed.

Thomas’s relatives have sued the department, and Houston Police Department homicide detectives are conducting a criminal investigation. The case is expected to be presented to a county grand jury for review.

The termination came after “a thorough internal affairs investigation” found Brewer did not adhere to the department’s use-of-force policy, according to a news release detailing the termination. The policy calls for the use of force to be avoided “if reasonably possible.”

“The brave men and women of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office are called upon to make life or death decisions on a daily basis and we take that responsibility very seriously,” Gonzalez said, in the release. “We hold the community’s trust as sacred, and we will continue to support our deputies with clear policies and the valuable training they need to protect the lives of all our residents.”

The Harris County Deputies’ Organization criticized Gonzalez’s actions, even as civil rights groups including the Houston chapter of the NAACP and the Texas Organizing project praised his decision.

The disciplinary actions comes less than a month since the fatal shooting, after Gonzalez had earlier pledged a swift internal investigation into his deputy’s actions.

Brewer, a six-year law enforcement veteran, has worked at the sheriff’s office since mid-2016. Previously, he had worked at the Precinct 4 Constable’s Office and for several school district police departments, according to state police licensing records.

The shooting outraged local civil rights activists and thrust Houston back into a national debate over police shootings of African-American men even as local law enforcement officials have touted efforts to reduce lethal incidents and increase transparency.

The shooting victim, Thomas, and the deputy are both African-Americans.

Reached by phone, Thomas’ sister, Markeeta Thomas-Smith, declined to comment.

Attorneys from the Harris County Deputies’ Organization defended Brewer and said they would be appealing his firing.

“Sheriff Gonzalez has second guessed Deputy Brewer’s split-second decision,” a union attorney said in a press statement. “We do not agree with the decision of Sheriff Gonzalez to terminate Deputy Brewer.”

Civil rights activists — some of whom have sharply criticized Harris County law enforcement in the past — said they were encouraged by Gonzalez’s decision.

Tarsha Jackson, with the Texas Organizing Project, called the termination “a step in the right direction.”

“Just knowing an officer has been terminated and he’s being held accountable, this gives the community hope that eventually these type of incidents will cease,” she said. “This is evidence there is an administration that is willing to hold police accountable.”

James Douglas, president of the Houston chapter of the NAACP, said he was “proud” of the sheriff.

“I’m not shocked,” he said. “I think it was the right thing to do … When law enforcement does what its supposed to do, we should recognize it.”


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Filming Cops
Filming Cops 5618 posts

Filming Cops was started in 2010 as a conglomerative blogging service documenting police abuse. The aim isn’t to demonize the natural concept of security provision as such, but to highlight specific cases of State-monopolized police brutality that are otherwise ignored by traditional media outlets.

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