HOUSTON, Texas – Police officers in Houston showed restraint in two separate shooting incidents that occurred in the wake of the slaughter of five Dallas-area police officers. In one incident a man who fired several shots at police was safely taken into custody while in a second, the suspect was shot after repeatedly ignored orders to drop the handgun he had in his hand.
In the first incident, early Saturday morning, two Houston Police Department gang unit officers came across a man standing in the middle of the road with a gun in his hand. The encounter took place in the south part of the city. Officers made repeated orders to the suspect to put down his weapon which he was waving around and pointing into the air. It was not until the suspect pointed the gun at the officers that they fired, killing the man, the Houston Chronicle reported.
The suspect, identified by his wife as Alva Braziel. Court records obtained by Breitbart Texas from the Harris County District Clerk’s website revealed the 38-year-old black man had an extensive history of felony and misdemeanor charges and convictions. The record reveals a conviction in 2001 for unlawful carrying of a firearm and a 2004 felony charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm. Other charges include evading detention multiple felony counts of possession of drugs and possession with intent to distribute.
The officers did not know of Braziel’s history before the encounter because they had not been dispatched. They also did not know that he had already fired the gun twice before they came upon him, Houston Police Officers Union President Ray Hunt told Breitbart Texas in an interview on Sunday. They witnessed a man with a gun in his hand acting in an erratic manner. They tried to talk the man down and it was not until their own safety was directly threatened that they responded with deadly force, he explained.
In the second police-involved shooting of the day for HPD officers, a patrol officer responded to a call of a domestic disturbance. On arrival, the man who was outside his home fired several shots at the officer, the Houston Chronicle reported. SWAT officers were called to the scene and after seven hours, the suspect was safely apprehended. The man had a history of mental illness, neighbors told Houston Chronicle reporter Dylan Baddour.
Houston police routinely work with mental health specialists in situations like this, Hunt told Breitbart Texas. “While I don’t know for certain that one of those specialists was on the scene,” he explained, “it is very likely given the suspects history and the duration of the standoff.”
Breitbart Texas asked Hunt if he is concerned that one of his officers may be killed or injured because of hesitating during a decision to use deadly force because of recent incidents in the news. “Absolutely,” he replied. “There is no doubt that it will happen. The repercussions of shooting are constantly going through their minds.”
The 18-year veteran police officer recounted some of his own stories where he hesitated from shootings.
“One case that sticks in my mind was a traffic stop in west Houston,” Hunt said. “While approaching the vehicle, a young black teen sitting in the back seat quickly reached down towards the floor. I drew my weapon and was about to fire.”
Just before he finished pulling the trigger on his .357 magnum revolver, the youth slowly raised his hands and sat back up. After pulling the young man from the car and securing him in his patrol car, Hunt searched the vehicle to see what the suspect was reaching for – there was nothing there. He later learned the young man ducked down in a reaction of fear that nearly cost him his life.
In the case of Alva Braziel, it looks like officers held their fire for as long as they could. Only when the man leveled the gun at the officers did they take action to stop the threat.
The national attention on the shootings around the country of black men by police weighs heavily on all officers, Hunt explained. Officers have to fear that if they take the proper action of stopping a person who might kill them or others that they will lose their jobs, have protesters in front of their homes, have people making death threats against them, and maybe even lose their homes and families.
Hunt recounted the story of one Houston police officer hesitated when he confronted a man holding a knife on another person. The suspect suddenly cut the victim who bled to death. The officer was so devastated loss of the victim’s life that he eventually resigned from the department. Because of his PTSD suffered from the event, he has been unable to hold a job and is now homeless. Many other officers around the country have gone as far as taking their own lives after having justifiably taken the life of another human being.
“Officers must make a split-second decision to shoot or not to shoot,” Hunt said. “The more factors an officer has to consider during that decision, the more likely the decision will come too late. And that hesitation could cost him his life, or could cost the life of an innocent person.”