Dallas County, TX – A grand jury has decided not to indict two officers who fatally shot a mentally ill man after his mother called the police for help getting her schizophrenic son, 39-year old Jason Harrison, to the hospital.
Officers John Rogers and Andrew Hutchins responded to the call placed last June, arriving to find the mother calmly greet them at the door. Body cam footage from one of the officers shows her explain to the officers that her son was schizophrenic and rambling, at which point he appears behind her in the doorway, playing with a screwdriver.
Upon seeing the man, one officer yells for him to drop the screwdriver, giving him only 5 seconds to reply before the cops opened fire. Harrison was shot five times, taking two of the bullets in his back as he collapsed into the garage door. He died only a few feet away from his mother as she yelled, “Oh, they killed my son! Oh, they killed my son!”
The officers continued to command the dead man to drop the weapon. After removing the screwdriver from his motionless hand, one of the officers puts his arms behind his back, preparing to handcuff a dead body. A spokesperson for the Dallas Police said the officers acted in fear for their life. In affidavits, the officers said they were forced to shoot the mentally-ill man after repeated orders to drop his weapon were ignored.
Again, the officers opened fire in under ten seconds.
Harrison’s mother has called the police for help with her son in the past with no incident.
The family is devastated at the grand jury’s decision, but has filed a federal civil lawsuit. The wrongful death suit was filed by family attorney Geoff Henly and names the city and officers Rogers and Hutchins, claiming they should have used nonlethal means to attempt to de-escalate the situation.
The reluctance to indict officers who are clearly guilty of misconduct is a very clear problem in the judicial system. According to a study released by the Washington Post, for every one thousand people killed by police, only one cop is convicted of a crime. According to the analysis, in order for prosecutors to press charges, there had to be exceptional factors at play. These include “a video recording of the incident, a victim shot in the back, incriminating testimony from other officers or allegations of a coverup.” This case had two of those exceptional factors, and it’s not even going to trial.
This sends an alarming message not only to the families of victims seeking justice, but to other cops – police officers have been and will continue to get away with murder.