An unarmed black man who was shot dead by a Texas police officer last Thursday had been walking towards the cop with his pants down when the officer fired the lethal shot, according to video of the shooting released by the Harris County Sheriff’s Office on Monday.
In the clip, taken from Deputy Cameron Brewer’s dashboard camera, 34-year-old Danny Ray Thomas can be seen walking in the middle of a Houston road with his pants around his ankles.
Brewer had stopped his car at an intersection after noticing a skirmish between Thomas and another man, who is seen in the video shoving Thomas.
Brewer, who is black, stepped out of the vehicle and can be heard repeatedly shouting, “Get down, man! Get down on the ground,” as Thomas approached him. A single gunshot then rings out offscreen before Brewer appears at the bottom edge of the video, apparently attempting to perform CPR on the wounded man.
Thomas, who was unarmed, was transported to a local hospital and later pronounced dead.
Family members told the Chronicle that Thomas had suffered from depression. His two young children, they said, had died in 2016 after allegedly being drowned by their mother, who has been charged with murder and is awaiting trial.
Harris County sheriff Ed Gonzalez said at a news conference Monday that his department was taking the shooting “extremely seriously” and was conducting a “thorough, transparent and expeditious” investigation into the incident.
Gonzalez added that the Houston Police Department had launched its own probe since the shooting had occurred within city limits.
He also said that Brewer had a Taser on him at the time of the shooting and had been trained on the use of non-lethal force, particularly in cases involving mental illness. Brewer, who joined the department in 2016, had been given a body camera hours before the shooting, but it was off and charging in his car at the time.
Houston police said in a statement last week that Brewer had fired his weapon at Thomas in self-defense. Thomas had ignored Brewer’s repeated verbal commands and had “continued to advance toward the deputy,” police said.
“Fearing for his safety, the deputy discharged his duty weapon, striking Thomas once in the chest,” the statement continued, adding that Thomas had been spotted by witnesses “walking in the middle of the intersection with his pants around his ankles, talking to himself and hitting vehicles as they passed by” in the minutes before the shooting.
The Houston Chronicle released another video last week showing a different angle of the shooting, captured by an onlooker’s cell phone. The video, filmed from across the street, shows the same scuffle between Thomas and the other man.
Thomas is then seen walking toward Brewer’s police car. “He’s about to get Tased,” a woman can be heard saying in the clip, referring to Thomas.
The video then shows the officer pointing a gun at the approaching man. “Uh-uh, not yet, not yet, not yet,” the woman says upon seeing the weapon.
A van then drives by, blocking her view of the two men. Just then, a single gunshot can be heard.
“He shot that man,” the woman says in the video. “Why he shot him? Why he shot that man? He should’ve got Tased, he shouldn’t have shot that man.”
The cellphone video can be viewed below. Viewer discretion is advised.
Hours after Thomas was killed, hundreds of protesters took to the streets of Sacramento, California, to denounce the March 18 police shooting of another unarmed black man.
Sacramento police said they thought Stephon Clark, 22, had been holding a gun at the time of the shooting. It turned out to be a cell phone. Clark was shot 20 times in his own backyard.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story indicated the woman filming the video of the shooting repeatedly said “not shoot” upon seeing the weapon. In fact, she was saying “not yet.”