HOUSTON—Houston Police Officer Matt Marin is a U.S. Navy Veteran and has received two Life Saving Awards in his five years on the force. Now, he’s the officer at the center of a deadly shooting that has captured national attention.
Marin shot and killed a wheelchair-bound double amputee early Saturday morning at a home for men with mental illnesses. According to police, Brian Claunch was acting aggressively because he wanted cigarettes and a soda.
He was shot after waving around a silver ballpoint pen.
The shooting of Claunch has been followed by outrage from critics. Some have questioned why Marin would’ve have been more prepared considering the type of home he responded to. Others have criticized him for not using less lethal force.
Houston Police Officers’ Union president Ray Hunt is asking that the public hold off on judgment.
“I can’t possibly second guess an officer whenever I’ve had two days to think about what I would do in that exact same situation,” said Ray Hunt. “I have been told that this person was very, very mobile in that wheelchair, and I know it’s difficult for the public to understand that.”
Hunt knows he’s not going to entirely curb the controversy. However, he said he wants the public to know that Officer Marin knew very little when he was called to the disturbance at Healing Hands on Polk in downtown Houston.
“I don’t believe this officer had any idea that this was a home for people who had mental issues. This is a regular house and the call dropped as a disturbance call,” explained Hunt.
While the caretaker who called police couldn’t control Claunch, some critics felt police could’ve diffused the anger without killing the man.
“It was a guy without an arm, without a leg in a wheelchair with a pen in his hand, gets shot and killed! That’s insane,” said Randall Kallinen with Greater Houston Coalition for Justice.
Hunt also said that dispatchers were not told if any weapons were involved in the disturbance at the home.
“Both officers are armed with Tasers just like every officer in the Houston Police department. It just as quick to whip out a Taser, bang, as it is to whip out a gun bang,” added Kallinen.
Hunt acknowledged that taking a life is never ideal, but said he believes that Marin did what he was trained to do.
“Unless we are in an ideal situation, we do not encourage officers to use a Taser when someone has a weapon. You can’t have a gun in one hand and a Taser in another hand,” said Hunt.
Officer Marin was involved in another deadly shooting back in 2009. In that case, he shot a man who was in the process of stabbing a woman and was ultimately credited with saving the woman’s life.
Police said Marin is receiving a psychological exam and that will play a role in what type of role he’s assigned to when he returns to work this week.
The FBI has now stepped in and joined the investigation.