US Justice Department Investigates HPD for Excessive Force

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The Houston Chronicle reported today that the U.S. Justice Department is investigating six relatively recent cases of shootings or alleged use of force violations against unarmed citizens by the Houston Police Department.

HPD Chief Charles McClelland asked the Justice Department to investigate three of the cases, and federal prosecutors requested investigation of three others, citing widespread outrage and publicity.

Dateline Houston readers will, I’m sorry to say, be familiar with most of the cases (click the hyperlinks for our previous coverage):

1. Chad Holley, an unarmed teenage burglary suspect beaten by a nearly dozen police officers

2. Annika Lewis, the wife of a man being beaten by police in his yard after a minor traffic infraction. Annika, who is less than five feet tall, was allegedly tackled and punched after she filmed police beating her unarmed husband. She says they also took the memory card from her phone

3. Rufino Lara, who was shot unarmed after allegedly refusing to show his hands, though witnesses say he had his hands up

4. Brian Claunch, a double amputee who was shot unarmed after police thought his ballpoint pen was a weapon

5. Anthony Childress, who says he was stopped by police and beaten while riding his bike, losing six teeth and requiring 56 stitches

6. A minor in handcuffs, unnamed, who was punched by an officer, an assault caught on new cameras.

Dateline Houston has also reported on several other incidents.

In a statement, the ACLU of Texas Legal & Policy Director Rebecca Robertson said, “Good cops don’t fear accountability; they welcome it.”

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.