TIME Texas

Texas Man Fatally Shot by Deputies Appeared to Hold a Knife, Sheriff Says

Deputies Shooting Texas
Bexar County Sheriff's Office/AP Gilbert Flores in an undated handout photo.

It's unknown whether investigators recovered a knife from the scene of shooting

(DALLAS) — A second video that captured Texas deputies fatally shooting a man whose hands were raised appears to show that he was holding a knife, a sheriff said Wednesday, declining to release the video because the investigation is ongoing.

Bexar County Sheriff Susan Pamerleau said at a news conference that the video has been forwarded to the Texas Department of Public Safety’s crime lab to see if it can be blown up and slowed down to establish the sequence of Friday’s events. Although it’s unclear from the video what 41-year-old Gilbert Flores may have been holding while facing deputies with his hands up outside of a home near San Antonio, investigators believe it was a knife, she said.

“There’s no doubt that what was shown in that video is of grave concern to all of us, but we also want to get this right,” Pamerleau said of the investigation. She declined to say whether investigators recovered a knife from the scene after the shooting.

A separate video of the shooting taken by a motorist and released publicly shows Flores raise his arms in apparent surrender and stand motionless just before the two deputies opened fire, killing him. A utility pole obscured one of his arms in that video, but Pamerleau said the second video, which was taken from a different angle, showed that both of Flores’ arms were raised when he was shot.

“We’re not drawing any conclusions at this point,” she said. “That would be inappropriate to do so.”

San Antonio attorney Thomas J. Henry, who is representing the Flores family, was not immediately available to respond to Pamerleau’s comments. But he told The Associated Press on Tuesday that the initial video appears to show that deadly force was unnecessary.

“From a lay perspective, seeing the video, it does appear the immediate danger is gone because he had both hands in the air,” Henry said. “Now there are other videos and other pieces of evidence that we want to gather.”

He said the family is considering filing a lawsuit to compel the authorities to turn over more evidence.

TIME Texas

Texas County to Fund More Body Cameras After Video of Officer Shooting

Officials approved $1 million in new cameras following the fatal shooting of Gilbert Flores by two sheriff's deputies

Officials in Texas’ Bexar County voted Tuesday to fund additional body and dashboard cameras for uniformed officers following the release of video footage that purportedly shows sheriff’s deputies shooting and killing a Hispanic man in San Antonio after he had raised both his hands in an act of surrender.

Commissioners of Bexar County, where San Antonio is located, approved almost $1 million to fund hundreds of cameras, the New York Times reports. The county has had a body camera program in place for more than a year, but only eight officers, all of whom are motorcycle officers, wear them.

On Monday KSAT 12 News released a video of 41-year-old Gilbert Flores interacting with two deputies on Friday morning. Officials say the deputies were answering a domestic disturbance report and that Flores had injured a woman and an 18-month-old child when he resisted arrest. In the footage, Flores appears to raise his arms in surrender as the officers come near him but is later shot to the ground.

“I don’t understand why he was shot,” said Michael Thomas, who recorded the video and said Flores wasn’t making any threatening gestures. “Both of his hands were up.”

[New York Times]

 

TIME Texas

Second Video Emerges of Texas Shooting by Deputies

"All I can tell you is the video is disturbing"

(SAN ANTONIO) — A second video has emerged that gives authorities a “very clear view” of a confrontation between deputies and a Texas man who had his hands raised before he was shot and killed, a prosecutor said Tuesday.

Bexar County District Attorney Nico LaHood described the new video and one broadcast earlier as “disturbing,” but cautioned against a rush to judgment as authorities investigate the shooting that killed 41-year-old Gilbert Flores northwest of San Antonio.

An initial video recorded by a motorist from some distance was posted online by a San Antonio TV station. It shows Flores outside a residence Friday facing two deputies when he raises his hands — one arm obscured by a utility pole. The deputies fired multiple times.

Sheriff’s officials say Flores was armed, though didn’t specify with what, and that nonlethal efforts to subdue him, including a Taser, were unsuccessful. LaHood declined to say Tuesday whether Flores’ arm motion was surrender.

“I don’t know what his intent was,” he said. “All I can tell you is the video is disturbing. But my encouragement to everyone is to press the pause button.”

San Antonio attorney Thomas J. Henry, who is representing the family, said in an interview Tuesday that the initial video appears to show that deadly force was unnecessary but he is seeking more evidence.

“From a lay perspective, seeing the video, it does appear the immediate danger is gone because he had both hands in the air,” Henry said. “Now there are other videos and other pieces of evidence that we want to gather.” He said the family is considering filing a lawsuit to compel authorities to turn over more evidence.

Flores’ death is the country’s latest law enforcement shooting to draw heavy scrutiny for using deadly force in a situation where it may not have been necessary. Law enforcement officials in the U.S. have expressed concern that the deadly confrontations have spawned retaliatory shootings of officers, including last week’s death of a suburban Houston deputy at a gas station.

The second video was recorded by a witness closer to the incident, LaHood said, but he declined to provide further information about what it reveals or when authorities acquired it. An investigation is underway to determine whether the deputies will face criminal charges or whether the danger to them was imminent, LaHood said.

Deputies Greg Vasquez and Robert Sanchez, who were not equipped with body cameras at the time of the encounter, have been placed on administrative leave. Sanchez has worked more than 20 years with the sheriff’s office and Vasquez has been with the agency more than 10 years, according to records with the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement. Both had received training in use of force and nonlethal devices.

Michelle Lee, a special agent for the FBI in San Antonio, confirmed Tuesday that “experienced civil rights investigators” are monitoring the investigation.

The deputies had responded to a domestic disturbance, authorities have said, and found a woman at the residence with a cut on her head and a baby who appeared to be injured. Sheriff’s officials have not indicated whether they believe Flores harmed the two.

Attempts to contact members of Flores’ family were unsuccessful Tuesday, but Henry said that Flores’ wife is devastated. The couple have a child who is just 21 days old, he said.

Bexar County court records show Flores was convicted in 2003 of aggravated robbery, and the San Antonio Express-News reports he also has a conviction for assault with a deadly weapon.

U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, who represents part of the San Antonio area, said in a statement that Friday’s shooting was “extremely disturbing.”

“This incident is further evidence that police officers and deputies should wear body cameras,” he said. “The widely supported technology brings transparency and accountability that protects law enforcement and civilians alike.”

Bexar County commissioners approved a county budget Tuesday that includes more than $630,000 to provide deputies with body cameras and also cameras for patrol vehicles.

TIME Guns

Houston Man Killed While Taking Selfies With Gun, Police Say

Investigators said the fatal shooting appeared to be accidental

A Houston man was shot and killed on Tuesday while taking selfies with a gun, authorities said.

The Houston Police Department said the victim and his cousin were playing with the gun when it fired and fatally struck the man, whom investigators did not identify immediately, but said was between ages 18 and 19, reports KPRC 2 News.

Investigators said the incident appeared to be accidental.

The incident is not the first time a selfie with a firearm turned tragic. In May, CNET reported on a recent spate of accidental selfie shootings. The site also referenced a Singaporean tourist who fell off a cliff while taking a selfie.

[KPRC 2 News]

TIME Crime

Ambushed Houston Sheriff’s Deputy Was Shot 15 Times, DA Says

Shannon J. Miles is charged with capital murder and held without bond

HOUSTON — A man charged with killing a suburban Houston officer first shot the 10-year veteran in the back of the head and fired a total of 15 times, authorities said Monday.

Shannon J. Miles, who is accused of capital murder and whose criminal record includes convictions for resisting arrest and disorderly conduct with a firearm, appeared briefly in state District Court in handcuffs and shackles. The 30-year-old Houston resident said little, other than to answer the judge’s questions. He’s being held without bond.

Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson would not comment on a motive, saying investigators were still trying to figure that out. When asked if it might be connected to heightened tensions around the country between law enforcement and civilians, Anderson said, “I have no idea whether it does or not.”

This weekend, Sheriff Ron Hickman said the attack was “clearly unprovoked,” and there is no evidence Goforth knew Miles. “Our assumption is that he (Goforth) was a target because he wore a uniform,” the sheriff said.

Anthony Osso, one of Miles’ two court-appointed attorneys, told The Associated Press that his client intends to plead not guilty.

“He had indicated to the investigating officers that he was not involved in the case,” Osso said in a telephone interview after Monday’s hearing.

Osso said Miles’ defense team is distancing itself from the sentiments expressed by the sheriff, the district attorney and others.

“What I want to do is investigate the case and defend my client based on the facts of the case and not opinion in the public eye or rhetoric that’s espoused on social media. It’s difficult enough to handle these types of cases,” Osso said.

In court, Anderson read the probable cause statement, saying that police first received a call at 8:20 p.m. Friday. When authorities arrived at the gas station in the Houston suburb of Cypress, they found Deputy Darren Goforth, face-down. He was already dead, she said.

Surveillance video from the gas station showed Goforth, 47, had just come out of a convenience store after he had pumped gas and that Miles got out of his red truck, she said.

“He runs up behind Deputy Goforth and puts the gun to the back of his head and shoots. Deputy Goforth hits the ground and then he continues to unload his gun, shooting repeatedly into the back of Deputy Goforth,” Anderson said.

Goforth was shot 15 times and a witness saw the shooting, Anderson said. She added that the shell casings match the .40-caliber Smith and Wesson handgun found at Miles’ home.

Miles’ next court date is Oct. 5.

The killing evoked strong emotions in the area’s law enforcement community, with Hickman linking it to heightened tension over the treatment of African-Americans by police. Goforth was white and Miles is black.

The nationwide “Black Lives Matter” movement has sought sweeping reforms of policing. Related protests erupted in Texas recently after Sandra Bland, a black woman, was found dead in a county jail about 50 miles northwest of Houston three days after she was arrested on a traffic violation.

“We’ve heard Black Lives Matter, All Lives Matter. Well, cops’ lives matter, too,” Hickman said Saturday.

Houston Police Lt. Roland De Los Santos, a childhood friend of Goforth’s, called the deputy a “simple guy” who was focused on providing for his family, noting that Goforth’s wife is a teacher and the couple has a 12-year-old daughter and a 5-year-old son. Goforth’s funeral is planned for Friday, he said.

Miles’ criminal record stretches from 2005 to 2009, with three convictions for resisting or evading arrest, as well as convictions for disorderly conduct with a firearm, criminal mischief and giving false information to police. Records show he was sentenced to several short stints in jail, anywhere from six to 10 days.

___

Associated Press writers Seth Robbins in San Antonio and Alan Scher Zagier in St. Louis contributed to this report.

TIME Crime

Houston Sheriff’s Deputy Killed in Gas Station Ambush

"Cops' lives matter, too," said Harris County Sheriff Ron Hickman

(HOUSTON) — Authorities on Saturday had yet to find the suspect in what they’re calling the “cold-blooded assassination” of a uniformed sheriff’s deputy who was fatally shot while filling up his patrol car at a suburban Houston gas station.

The death of Harris County Sheriff’s Deputy Darren Goforth prompted pleas for the public’s help in finding the shooter and also strong statements from about the recent climate of tension between civilians, law enforcement and the “Black Lives Matter” movement.

“Our system of justice absolutely requires a law enforcement presence to protect our community,” Harris County Sheriff Ron Hickman said at a news conference. “So at any point when the rhetoric ramps up to the point where calculated cold-blooded assassination of police officers happens, this rhetoric has gotten out of control.

“We’ve heard Black Lives Matter, All Lives Matter. Well, cops’ lives matter, too. So why don’t we drop the qualifier and say lives matter.”

Goforth, 47, was pumping gas about 8:30 p.m. Friday when a man approached him from behind and fired multiple shots, continuing to fire after the deputy had fallen to the ground. Hickman said surveillance video shows there were people at the gas station and asked that they reach out with any information that could lead to the suspect.

Police have described the suspect as a male with a dark complexion, about 5-foot-10 to 6 feet tall, wearing a white T-shirt and red shorts. Authorities did not say what race they believe him to be.

Earlier Saturday, Harris County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Deputy Thomas Gilliland said officials were questioning a person of interest and had a search warrant for a two-story brick home. Hickman said authorities were looking at a red pickup truck at the house, which is about a quarter-mile from the gas station, due to the description of the suspect driving a red or maroon truck with an extended cab.

Goforth was a 10-year veteran of the force, had a wife and two children, Hickman said. As for a motive, Hickman said that until anything is known with “certainty … it’s all speculation” but later suggested that Goforth was targeted because he was in law enforcement.

Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson called on what she described as “the silent majority in this country to support law enforcement.”

“There are a few bad apples in every profession. That does not mean there should be open warfare declared on law enforcement,” she said.

In a statement Saturday, Gov. Greg Abbott said “heinous and deliberate crimes against law enforcement will not be tolerated” and that the state “reveres the men and women in law enforcement who put their lives on the line every day to protect and serve their communities.”

The deputy had gone to the Chevron gas station in Cypress, a middle-class to upper middle-class suburban area of Harris County that is unincorporated and located northwest of Houston, after responding to a routine car accident earlier Friday.

An impromptu memorial sprouted at the pump he had used Friday night, with a pile of balloons, flowers, candles and notes, including one that said, “Gone but never forgotten R.I.P. Deputy Goforth.” The gas station was open Saturday, but that pump was closed.

Brian McCullar knew Goforth because the deputy had patrolled his neighborhood, which is about two miles from the gas station, and the two spoke often.

“He was passionate about what he did,” the 49-year-old said, adding, “We’re still in shock. … It’s a huge loss for his family. It’s a huge loss for this area.

“You’re talking about a guy that made a difference,” McCullar said.

Detectives were checking security camera video for possible clues. The search for the suspect includes Harris County sheriff’s deputies and homicide investigators and officers from the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Houston Police Department.

TIME gift cards

RadioShack Will Pay Cash for Your Unredeemed Gift Cards

RadioShack to Announce Q3 Earnings
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

But not all gift cards are created equal

Still holding onto that RadioShack gift card you got for Christmas two years ago? Well, dig it out. It may be worth something again.

RadioShack, which filed for bankruptcy in February, has tentatively settled with the Texas attorney general’s office concerning a case that was filed to protect the holders of nearly $46 million in unredeemed gift cards to the folded outlet, according to CNBC.

Attorneys put in place a new plan for some gift card holders to be repaid in full for any outstanding balances on RadioShack gift cards. The plan doesn’t apply to everyone though. Some gift card holders will only get pennies on the dollar, if anything.

Those who purchased cards for themselves or someone else, or reloaded an existing card, will get top refund priority, while those whose cards are from promotional giveaways or from a merchandise return will not be covered by the deal. Such gift card holders would be added to the list of general unsecured creditors.

The deal still has to be approved by the court and various attorney general, and once confirmed, RadioShack and the attorneys will need to put in place a system for claim submissions, the report said.

MONEY Farming

What in Tarnation? Cattle Rustling Is Making a Comeback

Cattle Rustling Theft Growing
Bloomberg/Getty Images Beef prices have risen considerably and cattle theft is on the rise.

Stolen calves are hard to identify and can sell for $1,300 at auction.

Cattle raiding, or rustling, is a crime most people know from film westerns and history books, not from modern times. As ranchers moved away from open range grazing by building fences in the late 19th century, the crime — once a capital offense punishable by hanging in many areas –mostly disappeared. But according to a report from NPR, cattle rustling is a big problem once again, particularly in Texas and Oklahoma.

Encouraged by booming beef prices—calves can now sell for up to $1,300 at auction, up from $800 a few years ago—around 4,000 animals have gone missing so far this year, setting a pace that should easily top thefts in 2014. Calves in particular are targeted for theft because they’re smaller and lighter than full-grown cows. What’s more, it’s simpler for rustlers to flip the animals to buyers because they often have no brands or tags yet.

In a typical heist, thieves load a handful of animals into a truck under the cover of night, but some thefts have been massive operations. One farm in Texas lost 1,100 animals.

To combat the crime wave, the Texas & Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association has assigned special self-proclaimed “cowboy cops” to investigate. The posse found that the culprits are often local teens, and that they aren’t necessarily looking to capitalize on the rising beef prices. Many simply fence stolen cattle by leading them onto another farmer’s land—literally guiding them through a fence—in exchange for drugs, or some quick money to buy meth, heroin, or alcohol.

Lawmakers in Oklahoma and Iowa, among other places, have been pushing for stricter penalties for livestock theft, and increases in fines and jail time are possibilities. None of the culprits will be hung from the gallows, however.

TIME Crime

Sandra Bland’s Death Launches New Hearings on Jail Suicides

sandra bland waller county jail
Pat Sullivan—AP The inside of the Waller County jail in Hempstead, Texas on July 22, 2015.

"There's no question that Ms. Bland's tragedy has led us to this point"

(AUSTIN, Texas) — The death of Sandra Bland in a rural county lockup launched a new review of jail safety in Texas, but state lawmakers were noncommittal Tuesday about whether Bland’s family would be part of the process.

Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick did not say Bland’s name while announcing that legislative hearings on jail suicides would begin in September. He said a new Senate committee is not focused on any one death, and when the question of whether Bland’s relatives would be involved was raised, noted that the family had recently filed a lawsuit.

But Democratic Sen. John Whitmire, who will chair the committee, made it clear that Bland’s death July 13 in a Waller County jail was the impetus. Authorities say Bland hanged herself with a garbage bag, a finding her family has questioned.

“There’s no question that Ms. Bland’s tragedy has led us to this point,” said Whitmire, who added that he has yet to determine who will be invited to the hearings.

A message left with attorneys for the Bland family was not immediately returned Tuesday.

Texas has seen an average of 25 suicides in county jails each year since 2012. There have been 29 this fiscal year, including Bland, who was found dead three days after she was arrested. She had been pulled over for signaling a lane change, but the routine traffic stop quickly became confrontational after the trooper asked her to put out a cigarette in her car.

Authorities have said that Waller County failed to keep a close watch on Bland and that jailers didn’t get additional mental health training that they were supposed to receive. Bland indicated on a questionnaire that she had previously attempted suicide.

Bland’s family filed a wrongful-death lawsuit earlier this month against the trooper who stopped the 28-year-old Illinois woman and other officials, including the Waller County Sheriff’s Office and two jailers. The lawsuit seeks a jury trial for unspecified damages.

Patrick said nearly half of jail suicides in Texas occur during the first week of custody and that half of those occur within the first 36 hours.

“Our goal would be to have a zero tolerance on suicides,” Patrick said.

TIME Texas

Lawyer Defends Texas Officer Who Killed Unarmed College Football Player

Police handout of officer Brad Miller
Arlington Police Department /Reuters Officer Brad Miller

Brad Miller's lawyer said in a statement that Miller "made decisions in the heat of a violent confrontation to save his and other officers' lives"

(ARLINGTON, Texas) — An attorney for a Texas police officer in training who fatally shot an unarmed, black college football player during a suspected burglary at a car dealership defended his client’s actions Wednesday and rebuked those of the police chief who fired him.

Arlington Police Chief Will Johnson had said a day earlier that Officer Brad Miller had been fired for causing a deadly confrontation that put him and other officers in danger, including pursuing 19-year-old Christian Taylor without telling his supervisor. Miller, 49, could also face criminal charges.

“Officer Miller made decisions in the heat of a violent confrontation to save his and other officers’ lives,” Miller’s lawyer, John Snider, said in a statement.

Snider says Johnson used “20/20 hindsight to protect his job and appease anti-police activists.” He also said Johnson’s “biggest fears are getting a paper cut or losing his six-figure salary.”

“A four day ‘investigation’ and media theatrics are not even close to due process,” Snider said. “This decision, while politically expedient for Chief Johnson, is an insult to the rank-and-file officers who put their lives on the line every day.”

Police spokeswoman Tiara Richard said neither Johnson nor the department had a response to the attorney’s statement.

Officers had been called to the scene of a burglary at the dealership early Friday. Security footage from the lot shows Taylor breaking out the windshield of a car on the lot and then driving his vehicle into the glass showroom. There is no video footage of the shooting itself.

Inside the showroom, Miller ordered Taylor to get to the ground. Instead, Taylor cursed at the officer and advanced toward him. When Taylor was about 10 feet away, the officer fired, Johnson said.

Taylor continued moving, so Miller’s training officer, Cpl. Dale Wiggins, shot Taylor with a Taser.

Miller then fired three more times. At least two bullets struck Taylor, killing him, according to the chief, who said the interaction lasted only seconds. Taylor and Miller never made physical contact, he said.

Taylor’s death came two days before the anniversary of the death of Michael Brown, an unarmed, black 18-year-old who was fatally shot by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, and is the latest in a series of incidents in which black men have been killed by police. Johnson noted that communities across the U.S. “have been torn apart by similar challenges.”

“Although the investigation is not over, my hope is that the information shared today can assist in the healing process,” Johnson said.

About 60 protesters gathered outside Arlington police headquarters late Tuesday, demanding that Miller, who is white, face criminal charges.

The firing was “not enough justice,” said Matthew Higgins, 20, one of Taylor’s former high school classmates. “If it was a white person, it probably would have been different.”

The Arlington Municipal Patrolman’s Association issued a statement decrying Johnson’s decision. The group said it supports “Miller’s right to be judged fairly and completely on facts instead of a snapshot developed in only days,” and expressed sympathy for Taylor’s family.

“We again ask that citizens obey the commands of police officers in order to prevent these tragedies from occurring in the future,” the association said.

Taylor was a graduate of an Arlington high school and a football player at Angelo State University in West Texas.

Taylor’s father, Adrian Taylor, told The Washington Post after word came of Miller’s firing that he and his family were more concerned with burying their son. “I’m not a man of revenge, and the results can’t bring my son back,” he said.

“Right now I just feel sorry for my family and his family and for the whole nation,” Taylor told the newspaper. “I just hope it makes a change because this is happening too much.”

Before his final confrontation with Miller, Taylor held up a set of car keys and told another officer that he intended to steal a car, Johnson said.

“It is clear from the facts obtained that Mr. Taylor was noncompliant with police demands,” Johnson said.

But, the chief said, Miller’s mistakes required his firing. While he said he had “serious concerns” about Miller’s use of deadly force, Johnson said it would be up to a grand jury to decide whether Miller’s actions were criminal.

“This is an extraordinarily difficult case,” Johnson said. “Decisions were made that created an environment of cascading consequences that produced an unrecoverable outcome.”

Miller joined the police department in September and graduated from the city police academy earlier this year. Police said Miller cannot appeal his firing because he was a probationary employee.

He was undergoing field training and assigned to a more senior officer, though he was a licensed police officer authorized to carry a weapon. Police said he had never fired his weapon in the line of duty before.

___

Associated Press writer Nomaan Merchant in Dallas contributed to this report.

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