HOUSTON—As two autopsy reports reveal new details about civilians killed by Houston Police Department officers, more concerns were raised Wednesday about the number of unarmed suspects killed by police.
Brian Claunch was 45, mentally ill and an amputee in a wheelchair when a Houston police officer shot him dead. Claunch was killed at his home on September 22, 2012. Turned out he was holding a pen at the time.
Claunch was shot at such close range in the head that unburned gunpowder was stuck to his skin, according to the autopsy report received Wednesday by local activists.
“If you are a police officer and you cannot get away from someone who has one arm and one leg in a wheelchair, maybe you should have another occupation,” said Randall Kallinen, a Houston civil rights attorney.
The autopsy report for Olga Lara’s brother, Rufino, also came out Wednesday. He was killed by an HPD officer outside a southwest Houston abandoned grocery store on July 9, 2012. Activists say he was holding a beer can when a female officer shot him.
“People have on them buttons that are shiny. We have watches that are shiny. I see some of you reporters have shiny things on you. Are you going to say, ‘Oh, you, there was a shiny thing, I shoot you,’” Kallinen said.
Members of the Greater Houston Coalition for Justice called for a federal probe Wednesday. They did so at a memorial for 14-year-old Eli Escobar. His fatal shooting a decade ago marked the last time an HPD officer faced criminal consequences for killing a civilian, members of the coalition said.
Since the Escobar case, coalition members said there have been 200 cases of HPD officers shooting civilians without any of them facing so much as an indictment.
“We need to do something about this slaughter. We cannot allow this to continue,” said Augustin Pinedo, of the Greater Houston LULAC.
The coalition insists it is time for the U.S. Justice Department to investigate. HPD officials had no comment.