Ben Crump Announces Lawsuit in Police Shooting of Unarmed Black Man with Mental Illness
Something that rarely happens in this country, just happened, and it has caught the attention of many people in the Greater Houston area – a member of law enforcement was actually fired, less than a month after fatally shooting an unarmed Black man for no reason.
Back on March 28, the Forward Times reported that Harris County Sheriff Deputy Cameron Brewer, who had only been with the sheriff’s department since 2016, fatally shot 35-year-old Danny Ray Thomas during an incident at a busy Houston intersection.
Thomas, who had a history of mental illness, was unarmed and walking in the intersection with his pants around his ankles, aggressively hitting cars as he mumbled to himself. When Deputy Brewer arrived on the scene, he immediately confronted Thomas and then shot him within about 20 seconds after ordering him to get on the ground. The incident was not only captured on the officer’s dashcam, but cell phone footage of the incident by a bystander was also captured of the confrontation that led to the loss of life of this unarmed Black man.
This past Friday, April 20, Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez announced that Deputy Brewer had been fired for failing to follow the department’s use of force policy.
Deputy Brewer’s body camera, which had just been issued to him a few hours before the incident, was completely off and still charging in his car as he confronted Thomas that day. Deputy Brewer was also equipped with a Taser as he engaged Thomas, but chose not to use the electronic stunning device as a means to try and subdue him.
National civil rights and personal injury attorney Ben Crump and prominent Texas trial lawyer Bob Hilliard are representing the family of Danny Ray Thomas, and recently held a press conference in front of the Harris County Civil Court to announce a major lawsuit against the Harris County Sheriff’s Department.
“The acknowledgment that this officer violated the use of force policy when he killed a non-threatening innocent man who was mentally ill and who was committing no crime will enrage a Harris County jury,” said Attorneys Crump and Hilliard in response to the firing of Deputy Brewer. “Perhaps a jury’s verdict will cause the sheriff’s department to focus on training, supervision and monitoring its officers. The color of your skin and state of your mental health should not be factors in whether you live or die in an interaction with police.”
Crump, who is also representing the family of Sacramento police shooting victim Stephon Clark, has partnered with Hilliard to pursue justice on behalf of Thomas and his family. Hilliard recently argued against the U.S. border patrol’s deadly force policies at the U.S. Supreme Court when a 15-year-old Mexican national was gunned down at the border.
“Deputy Cameron Brewer’s actions violated Danny Ray Thomas’ constitutional rights and were an extreme, excessive, and unwarranted use of force,” Attorneys Crump and Hilliard stated. “These actions were objectively unreasonable based on the circumstances, and we will do everything in our power to seek justice for his family.”
The decision by Sheriff Gonzales to fire Deputy Brewer has not been welcomed news to everyone, in that the Harris County Deputies Organization released a statement defending Deputy Brewer. The union also indicated that they have plans to appeal his termination.
“Sheriff Gonzalez has second guessed Deputy Brewer’s split-second decision,” stated a Harris County Deputies Organization attorney in a press statement. “We do not agree with the decision of Sheriff Gonzalez to terminate Deputy Brewer.”
Although Deputy Brewer has been terminated, an internal review of the March 22 shooting is still moving forward. Houston Police Department (HPD) homicide detectives are still conducting a criminal investigation. The case is expected to be presented to a county grand jury for review.
The Forward Times will continue to follow this case.