The family members of an unarmed black man who was shot and killed by a Texas police officer have filed a lawsuit against the Harris county sheriff’s office, claiming that the man wasn’t a physical threat.
On March 22, deputy Cameron Brewer shot 35-year-old Danny Ray Thomas after the two of them had a confrontation. Thomas was walking around with his pants down to his ankles and hitting cars as he passed by, according to witnesses. The lawsuit claims Brewer used excessive force “even after observing that Mr Thomas was unarmed and clearly in a state of crisis or suffering from mental health problems, and was not then presenting any objective danger to others or himself”.
Bob Hilliard, one of the family’s lawyers, said video footage showed Brewer putting his knee into the back of Thomas’ lifeless body and handcuffing him.
The death of Thomas is currently being investigated by the sheriff’s office and Houston’s police department. The evidence will be presented to a grand jury, which will determine if Brewer should indicted for his actions or not.
Ed Gonzalez, the Harris county sheriff, even expressed concerns about Brewer’s actions. He said that Thomas was clearly in a state of crisis and the officer used excessive force right away when he should have done more to deescalate the situation.
Marketta Thomas, Thomas’ sister, said that Thomas was dealing with the death of his two children and didn’t pose a threat to anyone. She added that his wife is charged with drowning their kids in 2016.
Benjamin Crump, another one of the family’s lawyers, said in a news conference that being black and mentally ill already gives a person two strikes when encountering law enforcement. “My God, he had his pants down by his ankles. All you have to do is push him, not give him a bullet to the chest,” he added.
This isn’t the first time police have sot an unarmed black man. In March, Sacramento police officers shot and killed a black man in his grandma’s yard because they thought he was pointing a gun at them.
The police received a report that a man broke car windows and was hiding in a backyard. When they found Stephon Clark in his grandma’s front yard, they told him to stop and show his hands. Clark then ran into the backyard and police went after him. According to the police, Clark started walking toward them and pointed an object at them, which they thought was a gun. The police then shot Clark 20 times and he was pronounced dead at the scene
Investigators said they found nothing on Clark except a cellphone.