There have been 376 in-custody deaths involving the Houston Police Department since the law allowing police agencies to withhold information if a suspect dies in custody went into effect. The agency says it keeps most of its records in a paper form and not electronically, and everything before 2014 is in off-site storage. For consistency, KXAN narrowed its request to only ask for records pertaining to the 27 in-custody deaths that occurred since 2016. Houston PD sent a cost estimate of $513 for those records, saying it would take about an hour per death to locate the denied requests. The agency provided us with the Texas Attorney General’s rulings related to those denied requests. KXAN obtained all other related documents from the Attorney General’s office to determine who the requestors were. Since 2016, a total of 29 open records requests for information related to five different deaths were withheld under the exception.
Officers responded to calls of a shooting in progress around 10:15 a.m. May 29, 2016, in Houston. The officers couldn’t immediately tell where the suspect was and set up a perimeter as the shooter, Dionisio Garza, continued to fire. A resident who lived nearby located the shooter and told responding officers where he was. An officer had a clear view of the suspect, and saw him walking with an assault rifle. The suspect positioned himself next to a vehicle, taking a shooting stance. The officer fired our “well-placed” shots at the suspect. A SWAT team began clearing the area, so medical personal could assist the suspect, who was pronounced dead at the scene. Garza shot over 200 rounds and killed one person. He also injured four civilians and two deputy constables who responded to the scene. He also fired at Houston Fire Department personnel and the Houston PD helicopter.
While on patrol around 12:39 a.m. July 9, 2016, in Houston, officers saw a man standing in a moving lane of traffic. Nearby surveillance video shows Alva Braziel fired about two shots before the officers arrived. As the officers drove closer toward Braziel, they thought he was trying to stop them because one of his hands was raised above his head and the other one was extended out towards them. But, as they got closer, they realized Braziel was holding a gun and pointing it at them. The officers, using their vehicle as cover, instructed Braziel to drop the weapon, but Braziel raised the weapon into the air instead. After another command to drop the weapon, Braziel changed his stance and lowered his hand to point the gun at the officers. The officers fired their weapons and struck Braziel several times. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
A Houston Police Department officer on patrol saw Gaines standing near a pedestrian signal light said it looked like he was damaging a sign. The officer thought Gaines was having a mental crisis and requested backup. Gaines walked toward the officer’s marked car with his fists clinched. The officer thought Gaines was possibly under the influence of drugs. The officer gave Gaines commands to back up and asked if he could help him. Gaines repeatedly said “f— life” and continued to walk toward the officer in an “aggressive manner.” The officer deployed a CED twice. As Gaines continued to advance toward him, the officer dropped the CED and took out his gun. The officer gave Gaines more verbal commands, but Gaines continued toward him, causing the officer to back pedal into traffic. When Gaines was about three feet away, the officer fired his weapon. Gaines died at the scene.
A Houston Police Department officer was dispatched to a noise complaint on April 10, 2017. After speaking with neighbors they learned a vehicle Jarrad Hill was in was the source of the noise. The officer smelled marijuana and asked Hill to get out. While Hill was detained, the officer said he was going to check him for any weapons. When the officer tried to check Hill’s waistband, the suspect tried to run away and a struggle between the two began. Hill had a pistol that he reached for and grabbed. The officer pushed Hill off, drew his own pistol and fired about three shots at Hill. The officer called backup and gave Hill gauze, telling him to pack his wounds. The officer continued to point his gun toward Hill because he didn’t know if Hill still had a weapon. Hill suffered from cardiac arrest and was pronounced dead at the hospital.
A Houston Police Department patrol officer was dispatched regarding an aggravated assault with a deadly weapon on Feb. 25, 2016. The officer spoke with Codey Harris’ common-law wife, who said he slapped her and threatened to shoot her. While an officer tried to contact Harris, he went back into the house and barricaded himself inside with a weapon. SWAT tried to convince Harris to surrender, but he refused. SWAT utilized a robot that entered the home through the back door, and they saw Harris fall through the ceiling of a bedroom while trying to hide in the attack. They visually located him hiding under a couch and continued to convince him to surrender peacefully. Harris threatened to shoot a K-9 dog if it was sent into the living room, where he was hiding. Harris shot himself in the head and was pronounced dead at the hospital the next day.