Law Enforcement: Once Respected…Now Rejected – Black Man Treated As Criminal After Being Shot
ABOVE: Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez, activist Deric Muhammad, A’Vonta Williams and Pastor E. A. Deckard
A’Vonta Williams, 21, had dreams and aspirations of one day becoming a law enforcement officer. Those dreams, which have been rooted in him since he was 3 years old, were deeply wounded and those aspirations unapologetically assassinated after an encounter A’Vonta had with a dangerous shooter, and ironically with members of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO), that has since changed his life forever.
How could a respectful, law-abiding, highly educated, young Black, high school graduate from Klein Collins High School, who had a passion for having a future in law enforcement and participated in law enforcement programs, have his entire view changed in an instant?
Sadly, the reason for this turn of events is the same reason why so many young Black men have grown to develop an unfortunate disdain for rogue cops, and have begun to mistrust racially insensitive members of law enforcement who are employed in cities all across America.
On August 30th, A’Vonta was riding in the passenger seat of his girlfriend’s Toyota Camry, along with her grandmother and little cousin, while trailing behind her uncle’s vehicle on the way to his house. As they turned left off of C.E. King going west towards the Beltway, they noticed a vehicle coming towards them, and assumed it was because there was still high water on the road. It was only when they got closer that they noticed someone leaning out of the window of their vehicle brandishing a weapon and unsuspectingly began shooting at their vehicle.
His girlfriend’s grandmother yelled out that she had been shot in the hip and was bleeding, which prompted A’Vonta to take of his shirt off and render aid – something he learned while successfully participating in his high school’s Police Explorer program.
Because both he and the grandmother were on the passenger side of the car, A’Vonta soon realized he had been shot as well – in both of his legs. A’Vonta’s girlfriend frantically started driving and took off to find the closest emergency room, but A’Vonta told her to pull over because he was in too much pain. His girlfriend immediately called 9-1-1, and continued driving until she was able to pull into a nearby Walmart off of the East Sam Houston Parkway and Wallisville Road. A’Vonta tried to get out of the car, but could not walk. He instantly fell to the ground and had no feeling in his right foot at all. As officers arrived on the scene, this is where A’Vonta says the situation went from bad to worse. Not only was he fighting to stay alive, he was now dealing with what he believes was the worst level of racial profiling and disrespect from anyone he had ever experienced.
A’Vonta recalls the first officer arriving on the scene and asking him what his name was, and then proceeding to say racially charged things like, “Who you beefing with?” and “Tell me who shot you? I know you know who shot you!”
Startled and still bleeding, A’Vonta responded to the officer’s questions by informing him that he had no idea who the shooter was. He identified the shooter as a White male, while simultaneously pleading with the officer to give him a first-aid kit if he had one – something, again, he learned while successfully participating in his high school’s Police Explorer program.
Ignoring his request for a first-aid kit, A’Vonta states the officer asked him once again who he “was beefing with”, which is street language for an argument or a feud between enemies or gangs. As witnesses on the scene tried to help and began putting pressure on his legs to stop the bleeding, A’Vonta states the officer made all of them move away from him as he was lying on the ground sitting in a puddle of his blood. Witnesses state the officers went inside of Wal-Mart and to a nearby gas station to ask them if A’Vonta had robbed them, as opposed to pulling out their first-aid kit to render aid to this young Black man who had been shot and was bleeding profusely before their very eyes. Eventually, paramedics arrived on the scene and it was determined that A’Vonta, and the grandmother, 67, needed to be transported by Life Flight helicopter to Memorial Hermann in the Texas Medical Center.
Homicide and assault investigators arrived and interviewed the girlfriend’s uncle, who got a better description of the shooter. He described the shooter to investigators as a White male, approximately 30 years of age, driving a silver or gray colored Ford F-150 truck with a black bumper and writing over the windshield, wearing a baseball cap that was pulled down over his eyes. Investigators provided the family with a case number and a business card, but the family states HCSO did nothing else to follow up with A’Vonta or his family on the case.
A’Vonta states he and family members tried to file a formal complaint, as well as get any updates on the case from the HCSO countless times, but were consistently denied and ignored. After going to a local substation a few times, his sister, Amber Williams, states she was told she needed to bring A’Vonta with her in person in order to get any information. His mother, Kisshima Williams, also called the sheriff’s office and was told she needed to bring her son in for an interview, which was impossible because A’Vonta could not walk or physically come up there after having had major surgery and being confined to a wheelchair. Kisshima Williams believes that if her son was White and the shooter was Black, that the response by law enforcement officials would have been different, and that they would have done a more aggressive job in looking for the suspect on that day.
“These cops immediately racially profiled my son without knowing any of the facts,” said Kisshima Williams. “They did not pull out their first-aid kits. They did not want anyone to help my son as he was bleeding. They did not care whether he lived or died, because in their minds he was guilty because he was a young Black man. I am so glad my son is alive and at the end of the day, I want justice for my son.”
After getting nowhere with the HCSO for months, Kisshima Williams decided to go on social media and reach out to the community to get assistance and justice for her son.
Several community activists caught wind of the situation and activist Gerry Monroe reached out to activist Deric Muhammad for assistance. Muhammad went to the house to meet with A’Vonta and his family, and after that meeting, Muhammad reached out to Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez to get some answers. Within a day, Sheriff Gonzalez immediately responded to Muhammad and agreed to personally meet with A’Vonta at his home to find out what happened, and hopefully provide some answers. After meeting with A’Vonta and his family, along with the community activists, Sheriff Gonzalez agreed to do a thorough investigation and assured them that the sheriff’s office would pursue all leads in the case.
Muhammad believes this is a recurring issue that must be addressed if law enforcement officials truly want to mend relationships with young Black males and members of the community.
“A’Vonta Williams had a lifelong dream to become a law enforcement officer, but unfortunately that’s not the case anymore,” said Muhammad. “Activists are often blamed for influencing young Black brothers and sisters to dislike the police. The truth is, however, no one is more responsible for the negative views that many young Black males have of police than those officers who profile and mistreat them and get away with it.”
Sheriff Gonzalez tells the Forward Times that based on the very general suspect description, they have been unable to identify any suspects at this time. Sheriff Gonzalez also indicated they do not have sufficient information to initiate a search for a suspect, but investigators would continue efforts to communicate with A’Vonta to determine whether he has any additional information that may help solve this crime. He also agreed to look into some victim’s assistance programs and funding sources from the state, to help with the recovery costs that the family has suffered as a result of the shooting.
In the meantime, however, one of the primary concerns that A’Vonta and his family has is finding out the outcome of the formal complaint filed against the officers who showed up on the scene that day, to which Sheriff Gonzalez gave an official response to the Forward Times.
“The sheriff’s office is committed to treating all residents fairly and respectfully,” said Sheriff Gonzalez. “This particular case is being reviewed by Internal Affairs to ensure that all deputies acted appropriately.”
Things seemed to have not gotten better after the meeting with Sheriff Gonzalez, however, as A’Vonta and his family state investigators came to the house to take the formal complaint, and they asked who the officers were at the scene, and they told them they didn’t know. They also claim investigators told them there was no police report done, and believe investigators made comments seemingly defending the actions of the officers, while attempting to discourage them from actually filing the formal complaint.
In the meantime, the road to recovery for A’Vonta has been challenging. Not only did A’Vonta have to stop working, his mother quit her job as well to care for him as his quality of life suffered, along with his emotional well-being. A’Vonta now finds himself having to deal with the physical, emotional and financial burden of his recovery, as he has some serious recurring costs with each doctor’s visit, along with the three visits to physical therapy each week, the medication and the new brace he is in need of for his right foot. It is hard to say the least.
At the time of the shooting, A’Vonta was working as a commissioned security officer, which was a step towards his goal of being a law enforcement officer. He had also been training to become a professional boxer, and interestingly, A’Vonta had his first boxing match scheduled for the day after he got shot. Now those dreams have been altered and postponed.
Now, the 21-year-old can only dream about what could have been, while having nightmares and second thoughts about a profession he has loved ever since he was a kid.
“I thought I was going to die and was begging for help and asking for assistance the way I was trained to do. I couldn’t believe I was the person that got shot, and didn’t do anything wrong, yet they handled me like I was the criminal,” A’Vonta emotionally shared. “Since I was 3, all I ever wanted was to be a State Trooper so I could put bad people away and protect and take care of my family. How I was being treated made me really mad. I don’t even want to be an officer anymore.”
The family is asking the community for donations and has set up a GoFundMe account. If you are interested in helping A’Vonta Williams and his family as he seeks to recover from this terrible physical, emotional and financial hardship, please visit https://www.gofundme.com/god-will-provide-just-have-faith.
The Forward Times will continue to follow up with A’Vonta and the HCSO to see if there are any new leads in this case of a dangerous shooter that is still on the loose.