The Houston Police Department has cleared the officer who shot and killed a double amputee at his group home last September, claiming that the officer was not at fault.
After an internal and external investigation, Police Chief Charles McClelland defended the officer’s actions, telling local channel KTRK "Officers are making decisions in a matter of seconds, sometimes in less-than-desirable environments, small spaces."
The victim, Brian Claunch, had mental problems and was living in a group facility near downtown Houston called Healing Hands. Claunch created a ruckus at the home around 2 a.m. the day of the shooting, ordering a staff member to give him cigarettes and soda.
The police showed up after the staff member called 911, and Claunch, 45, reportedly shouted threats at them. He eventually came at the officers holding something shiny in his hand. Although was only holding a pen, the room was reportedly dark so officers could not see very well.
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Despite his disabilities, Claunch was described as physically able. "I'm not saying he would hurt the police, but Brian was very strong and he was very agile," said John Garcia, who runs Healing Hands. "He was fast. He could spin that wheelchair around like kids on a bicycle."
Not all Houston residents are convinced that the police are free of blame in the incident.
Just after the shooting, activist Quanell X told The Guardian, "This man did not have to die. He was killed in cold blood. The training of the Houston police department's officers must change. They called to get him assistance. They did not call to have him murdered."
At a community forum on police brutality on Thursday, one person said, "I'm not gonna listen to their PR stuff."
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Ray Hunt, chief of the police union, responded to complaints saying, "You got a handful who think all police are dirty and the rest, 99 percent of the citizens, think we're doing a good job."