Bellaire, TX — An innocent neighbor became the victim of a reckless police chase after just about everything that could go wrong, did go wrong during a traffic stop in Bellaire, Texas.
Houston police officers attempted to pull over a Cadillac SUV that had allegedly made an “illegal U-turn.” The vehicle refused to pull over and actually sped up to attempt a getaway. When officers gave chase, they noticed bags of what they believed to be marijuana being thrown out of the window.
The fleeing vehicle lost control and crashed into a tree and a fire hydrant. But it’s what happened next that has the Houston police department under fire for its officers’ actions.
Once the Cadillac stopped, officers say the two female occupants then attempted to assault them by backing the vehicle up into the officers’ vehicles. Police opened fire, wounding the driver, a passenger, and striking a woman with bullets who was in her own home at the time of the shooting.
Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo held a press conference outside the scene of the shooting. He said the suspects, who were all doing well in the hospital, were charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.
— Courtney Fischer (@CourtneyABC13) September 5, 2017
But how can a simple moving violation end up with officers nearly killing three people? Many police departments have given orders to their officers not to give chase when they are in pursuit of a fleeing vehicle. The policy is called “no-pursuit” and usually takes place when the person fleeing is not known to be a convicted felon.
Innocent people, such as the woman, who was shot while minding her own business in her home, get hurt in the melee and confusion surrounding a police chase. The financial liability for police departments and cities skyrocket when police pursue and bad things happen.
According to the report by KHOU, officers did not recover the bag they said they believed to be marijuana, which is labeled a “narcotic” by the Drug Enforcement Agency of the federal government.
@ChiefAcevedo provides update to officer involved shooting on Sunburst https://t.co/oIc8eZmAe1
— Houston Police (@houstonpolice) September 5, 2017
Narcotics officers with the Houston PD have opened an investigation into the plant material they supposedly saw being thrown from the vehicle in pursuit. But the War on Drugs has now claimed three more victims, all because federal officials classify a plant as a narcotic as powerful as meth.
Twenty-nine states as well as the District of Columbia have decriminalized cannabis, made it available as medicine, or have allowed it to be sold and consumed recreationally. Yet Texas is one of those hold-out states that follow federal law to the letter when it comes to marijuana.
The entire incident could have been prevented. First, officers could have called off the chase when it became apparent the pair of women were going to attempt to flee — especially considering the fact that they fled into a neighborhood. Too many innocent motorists are injured when police pursue fleeing vehicles.
Second, they could have stopped to retrieve the baggies they said were being thrown from the vehicle. And lastly, they likely should have held their fire when the suspect’s vehicle was reportedly backing up—or as they called it, ramming—into the police cruisers.
Just this year, Roy Oliver, a Balch Springs, Texas police officer was charged with murder for shooting into a vehicle filled with teens, killing 15-year-old Jordan Edwards. His charges stemmed from the fact that he lied about the incident on his police report and his body camera did not back up his claims. The truth was he shot into the vehicle as it was going away from him, not as it was running into him as he claimed.
It is unclear whether or not the Houston officers fired in self-defense as they claim. It is only when and if the body camera and Dash Cam footage are released that the answer will become apparent. Until the investigation is complete, the officers have been placed on administrative duty, still earning their taxpayer-funded salaries.
While it is easy to place all of the blame on the fleeing suspects, others will likely conclude that the majority of the blame belongs with the officers who chose to give pursuit and to open fire on suspects in a residential neighborhood. Not only have two innocent-until-proven-guilty suspects been wounded, but a homeowner was injured when she was struck by the officers’ errant bullets. She will likely sue the police department for damages, and, once again, the taxpayers will be held liable.