HOUSTON (AP) — Officials in Houston released video Thursday showing police officers shooting a black man who police said had been holding a gun while standing in a street.
The footage from the July 9 incident included the recording from a convenience store surveillance camera that shows Alva Braziel, 38, in the distance. The video is dark and it’s difficult to see clearly what Braziel has in his hand and what happened in the moments before officers fired.
The surveillance video showed Braziel falling to the ground 10 seconds after a police vehicle pulls up. The officers thought Braziel was flagging them down for assistance and only realized he was armed when they flashed a light on him, authorities said.
That recording is followed by the body-cam videos from the two responding officers, which shows only the aftermath of the shooting: The front of Braziel’s white shirt is bloodstained, and an officer removed a handgun from his right hand.
Officers must activate the body cameras themselves. The officers followed department policy when they didn’t immediately activate their cameras because they needed to first confront the danger that Braziel posed, the acting police chief, Martha Montalvo, said in a statement later Thursday.
“The two officers viewed the threat to themselves and the public as immediate, stopped their patrol vehicle and exited the vehicle even before it was in park,” Montalvo said. “Once the threat was contained, officers activated their cameras.”
The officers’ squad car was not equipped with a dashcam recorder, according to police spokesman Kese Smith.
Audio from the patrolmen’s body cameras recorded them telling responding officers that Braziel waved the weapon before pointing it at them.
The footage was released to dispel claims on social media that Braziel was unarmed, Mayor Sylvester Turner said during a news conference Thursday afternoon, adding that a friend of Braziel acknowledged to police at the scene that he was armed.
“I don’t want a single police officer shot at and hurt based on erroneous information,” Turner said. “The community and police must work hand-in-hand. We both need each other.”
Turner noted that under state law, such police video is usually not released until after both criminal and administrative investigations are completed. Houston police and the Harris County district attorney’s office are still investigating the shooting, but he said the deadly shootings of five officers in Dallas and three in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, have created tense relations and that releasing the footage was “in everyone’s best interest.”
“The reality is that this was not a case of an unarmed person being shot by police,” he said.
Community activists and civil rights groups had called on the city to release all video footage from the shooting, and many of the groups have been critical of the department’s history of deeming nearly every police shooting justified in the past 11 years.
Braziel’s wife, Nikki Braziel, attended the news conference and told reporters afterward that the officers were not justified in shooting her husband.
“It did not show that Mr. Braziel was waving a gun, pointing a gun, it didn’t show that in that video,” she said of her husband.
Warren reported from Dallas.