National News

Sheriff’s Deputy Is Fired After Fatally Shooting Unarmed Man in Houston

Posted April 21, 2018 11:30 a.m. EDT

A sheriff’s deputy who shot and killed an unarmed black man who was acting erratically at a Houston intersection last month has been fired, the Harris County Sheriff’s Office said Friday.

The deputy, Cameron Brewer, who is also black, did not adhere to the department’s policy on use of force when he fatally shot Danny Ray Thomas, 34, on March 22, the agency said in a statement.

A video camera inside Brewer’s car captured part of the encounter: Thomas can be seen at an intersection with his pants around his ankles and in an altercation with another man as the deputy’s car pulls up. He can then be seen walking toward Brewer, who is yelling: “Get down, man! Get on the ground.”

The deputy was not wearing his newly issued body camera, so what happened next was not captured in the video released by the sheriff’s office. But the sound of a single gunshot could be heard, and Thomas was pronounced dead at a hospital.

Brewer, who joined the sheriff’s department in 2016, was placed on administrative duty after the shooting, pending an internal affairs investigation. In its statement Friday, the department said that Thomas was “behaving erratically” but that he was unarmed. Although Brewer was carrying a Taser, he did not use it before shooting Thomas, Sheriff Ed Gonzalez has said.

“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 statement. “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.”

Brewer did not respond to a phone call seeking comment Friday. A spokeswoman for the Houston Police Department said Friday that the department was still investigating the shooting.

The Harris County Deputies’ Organization expressed condolences to Thomas’ family but said in a statement that it stood behind Brewer. “Sheriff Gonzalez has second-guessed Deputy Brewer’s split-second decision,” it said. “We do not agree with the decision of Sheriff Gonzalez to terminate Deputy Brewer.”

The shooting happened at a time of heightened scrutiny over the use of force by police. Another unarmed black man, Stephon Clark, 22, had recently been shot by officers in his backyard in Sacramento, and protests over his death were taking place on the same day Thomas was killed.