HOUSTON— The FBI has joined the investigation into the weekend shooting of an unarmed double amputee by a Houston police officer.
Officer Matthew Marin, a five-year-veteran, killed Brian Claunch around 1:30 a.m. at a group home in the 4300 block of Polk Street.
A frantic caretaker called for help when Claunch apparently got irate over a pack of cigarettes and a soda.
"He got agitated in the middle of the night, he started to get a little bit violent," said group home manager Juan Garcia.
According to police, Claunch had an object in his hand and ignored the officers’ repeated commands to drop it. When he cornered one of the officers in his wheelchair and tried to stab him with the object, Marin shot and killed Claunch.
That’s when they they discovered the object Claunch had been wielding was a silver pen.
"It was a guy without an arm, without a leg, in a wheelchair with a pen in his hand, gets shot in the head and killed that’s insane," said Randall Kallinen, a civil rights attorney and member of Greater Houston Coalition for Justice.
Randal Kingery, who lives nearby, said the police should have known what they were dealing with. He said he saw them there a month ago, and that it was no secret the residents had special needs.
"For the cops to go in there with guns drawn, it’s ridiculous," he said.
"It is just as quick to whip out a Taser as it is to whip out a gun," Kallinen said. "The officer who allegedly felt threatened, he didn’t pull out his Taser, his gun. So why did the other officer? "Officers should be better trained to recognize things. There have been many shootings with people with cell phones or pens," said Kallinen. "Who doesn’t have a cell phone or pen on him?"
The group home houses men battling medical disabilities. Garcia said Claunch had been living there for about a year and a half. He apparently suffered from both bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
He wasn’t surprised by Claunch’s outburst.
"He had a temper, he could fly off once in a while," Garcia said.
Garcia said he doesn’t know if the lights were on or off when the officers entered, something that may have affected their decision to shoot.
Claunch had a history of trouble with the law, mostly for drug offenses and auto theft.
He reportedly lost his leg and arm in a train accident.
Houston Police Chief Charles McClelland said he asked the FBI to join the investigation.
"The Houston Police Department places the highest value on human life and events like these are tragic and unfortunate for everyone involved," McClelland said in a written statement. "All Houston Police Officers receive mandatory crisis intervention training specifically dealing with persons experiencing mental crisis."
Marin will work three days of desk duty, which is standard procedure in an officer-involved shooting.
In 2009, he shot another suspect who had stabbed two people.
Also in 2009, Marin was one of three HPD officers accused of beating Marvin Driver, father of NFL player Donald Driver. All three officers were later cleared and they filed a slander lawsuit against activist Quanell X.