HOUSTON - A Houston police officer will not face any charges for shooting an unarmed man on Christmas day.
The youngest of six children, Blake Pate, 24, had just what loved ones needed.
“We nicknamed him the gentle giant,” said his mother Patsy Pate. “Blake was a peacemaker.”
“He had a way of diffusing situations like I’ve never seen,” said his nephew Eric Jones.
So, it is hard for relatives to believe how Pate died. After leaving a family Christmas party, Pate crashed his Camaro and was then confronted by Houston Police Sgt. Curtis Hampton. Witness accounts vary on what happened next. However, Hampton said Pate was aggressive and caused the officer to fire three deadly shots. Worse, for Pate’s family, is what happened this week. A Harris County grand jury cleared Hampton of any charges.
“They’re wrong,” Patsy Pate said.
“I felt cheated,” Jones said.
“It feels like we were punched in the stomach when (the grand jury) said no bill,” said Sheila Jones, Pate’s sister.
In protest, they stood outside the courthouse Thursday criticizing the district attorney’s office and police. They said Hampton’s record, which includes a 15-day suspension for continually looking for a sexual relationship with a female co-worker, should prevent him from serving. Protestors also took shots at the grand jury system in Houston.
“The grand jury heard one side of the story,” said David Hodges, the Pate family attorney. “They called zero witnesses and, to no surprise of anyone familiar with officer involved shootings in the city of Houston, a no true bill was issued.”
“Anything short of a video of excessive force and you will not get a sustained complaint against police officers,” said Shelby Stewart, a retired Houston Police Officer.
The district attorney’s office did not respond to requests for comment Thursday. A spokesman for HPD said the department will follow protocol and not discuss the outcome of such a case except to say internal affairs found no sustained misconduct.
“I trust the process,” said Sally Ring, Hampton’s lawyer.
Ring sees no problem with grand juries.
“They have the ability to flesh out any sort of criminal allegation ,and in this particular case, they took a look at it and decided he should not be criminally liable,” Ring said.
That is little consolation for Pate’s family who want peace of mind. They are asking for a federal investigation of all officer involved shootings in Houston where the person shot was not armed.