Houston Police Kill Yet Another Unarmed Citizen

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Photo taken from Houston Police Department Facebook page

 

Today, Houston is struggling with the shooting death of yet another unarmed citizen at the hands of the Houston Police Department. It is the fourth shooting of an unarmed person, and the third death, since July 9.

Just past midnight this (Thursday) morning, 38-year-old Kenneth Releford allegedly kicked in the front door of his neighbor’s home in south central Houston, assaulted the two boys and an elderly man living there, and left.

A lengthy Houston Chronicle article published early this afternoon took its account from John Cannon, a Houston Police Department spokesman. It reports that Releford “hit” the elderly man and that the son said the man “was not hurt when [Releford] tried to hit him.”

“Cannon said the elderly man and the juveniles who were allegedly attacked were not seriously injured and were treated at the scene,” the Chronicle wrote. But when the police statement on the event arrived this afternoon, it said that Releford “sexually assaulted one of the juvenile males.”

The family later said Releford had never bothered them before, and said they didn’t know why he’d attacked them, though they believed he may have had mental health problems.

Releford went home and HPD arrived. The officers went to Releford’s house and he came out on his porch, allegedly with his left hand behind his back. Releford screamed at Officer J. Rosemon, who’s been on the force for less than two years, and advanced on him as the officer retreated, keeping his left hand behind his back and ignoring commands to stop and show the hand, according to the Houston Police account.

Officer Rosemon fired twice, hitting Releford, who proved unarmed.

HPD paramedics arrived and Releford fought with them—another suggestion that Releford was mentally ill. He was pronounced dead at Ben Taub General Hospital.

Late last month, HPD came under strictly metaphorical fire for an officer’s fatal shooting of a mentally ill, unarmed double-amputee in a wheelchair.

Earlier in September, an HPD officer shot, but did not kill, another unarmed citizen with a history of mental illness. And in July, an HPD officer shot and killed an unarmed man whom the officer said was not responding to commands but whom two witnesses said was cooperating.

In September, one HPD officer also shot at, but missed, an unarmed alleged beer thief in the back of a car who made a “quick move.” Another officer shot two suspects in a car fleeing after a bar fight.

A July 30 report in the Houston Chronicle observed that shootings of HPD suspects were on the upswing, having doubled compared with the same period the previous year. Department officials, and the Houston police union, said the trend was “likely cyclical.”

Emily DePrang is a staff writer at The Texas Observer where she covers criminal justice and public health. Her work has appeared in The Atlantic and Salon.com, and she’s a former nonfiction editor of the Sonora Review. She’s holds an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from the University of Arizona and a B.A. from the University of Texas at Austin. In 2013, she was a National Health Journalism Fellow; in 2012 she won the Sigma Delta Chi award for public service in magazine journalism.