ABOVE: The deputy was fired from the Harris County Sheriff’s Office one month after the deadly shooting. That deputy appealed the firing and now Danny Ray Thomas’s family is heading to civil court.
Wrongful Death Lawsuits Filed by families of Roderick Brooks and Danny Ray Thomas, while family of Pamela Turner awaits results of jury trial of officer who fatally shot her
In early August, the Forward Times published an eye-opening article entitled Is $1 Worth of Shampoo > The Life of a Black Man and promised to continue following the case involving a Black man with mental illness who was tragically killed by a member of law enforcement after stealing $1 worth of shampoo from a store and keeping our readers updated.
Well, there have been some new developments in the case, that family members hope will lead to some accountability for the incident that took the life of their loved one, Roderick Brooks.
Last week, the family of Roderick Brooks filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against Harris County Sheriff’s Deputy Sgt. Garrett W. Hardin—the law enforcement office who executed Brooks by shooting him in the back of the neck—along with the Harris County Sherriff’s Office, Harris County, Harris County Commissioner’s Court, and Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo.
The federal lawsuit is being brought by Brooks’ family against all the listed Defendants relating to what they are claiming was the excessive and illegal use of force against Brooks, which resulted in his wrongful death. The lawsuit claims that, acting under the color of law, the Defendant’s acts and omissions violated Brooks’ individual rights under the Fourteenth Amendment of United States Constitution and, consequently, his civil rights, and they are bringing claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (“Section 1983”) and Texas common and statutory law.
On top of that, Brooks’ family is also alleging that Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez is, and was at all relevant times mentioned, the final policymaker for the Harris County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO), with the authority for setting policies, including training of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office Deputies and staff. They state that Sheriff Gonzalez had a duty, but failed to implement and enforce such policies, practices, and procedures for the Harris County Sheriff’s Office that respected Brooks’ constitutional rights.
The family of Roderick Brooks held a press conference in front of the Harris County Administration Building on Wednesday, September 28th—the same day they filed the Federal Civil Rights lawsuit. They were joined by the Million More Movement Ministry of Justice, Minister Deric Muhammad, family Attorney Justin Moore, Attorney Sadiyah Evangelista-Karriem, the Nation of Islam, and other community organizations.
As was previously reported, the 47-year-old Brooks was killed after being chased down, beaten, and tasered for stealing a $1 worth of shampoo from the store.
On July 8th, a call was made around 6:30 p.m. by a Dollar General employee who had accused Brooks of shoplifting from the north Houston store, according to investigators. As seen on the video that was finally released after a lengthy delay, Harris County Sheriff Sergeant Garrett Hardin is seen arriving to the scene, jumping out of his vehicle to pursue Brooks on foot after seeing Brooks fleeing the scene, and then yelling for him to, “Come here, dude! Come here!”
The bodycam video shows Brooks running from Sgt. Hardin through the parking lot of a gas station, before he catches up to Brooks and says, “Stop, dude. I’m gonna taze you. Stop! Get on the ground!”
After attempting to run away from the officer again, Brooks was hit with a taser, and Sgt. Hardin tackles him to the ground after the taser was deployed. Brooks is then heard asking the officer why he was being tasered, before pleading with the officer get off him. A struggle ensues between Sgt. Hardin and Brooks before he reaches for the officer’s already deployed taser that was lying on the ground near his head. After a struggle over the already deployed taser, the bodycam video shows Sgt. Hardin pushing Brooks’ head to the ground, pulling out his firearm, and then fatally shooting Brooks in the back of the neck. After shooting Brooks, Sgt. Hardin calls for an ambulance, but Brooks was pronounced dead at the scene.
The Harris County Sheriff’s Office only released two edited versions of the body camera footage for the family and their attorneys to review, and after the family viewed those two edited versions, another further edited version was released to the public.
Brooks’ murder by Sgt. Hardin is still under investigation by the Harris County Sheriff’s Office Homicide Division, Sheriff’s Office Internal Affairs, and the Harris County District Attorney’s Office. An autopsy was performed by the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences and Sgt. Hardin remains on administrative duty pending the outcome of the investigations.
This is not the only officer involved shooting incident that has led to a federal civil lawsuit being filed.
Just this past month, on September 20th, the family of Danny Ray Thomas and nationally renowned civil rights attorney Ben Crump, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against another Harris County Sheriff’s Office deputy who shot and killed Thomas in March 2018, after the officer was found not guilty of the shooting.
Thomas was shot and killed by Harris County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Cameron Brewer,45, while he was having a mental health crisis. Thomas’ family believes that gross negligence by Deputy Brewer led to their loved one’s untimely death.
These two lawsuits—Brooks and Thomas—have been filed while the jury trial of the police officer accused of murdering Pamela Turner in Baytown, TX, got underway on September 30th.
A Harris County grand jury indicted Baytown Officer Juan Delacruz in 2020, on a charge of first-degree aggravated assault by a public servant in the May 13, 2019, shooting of Turner.
Officer Delacruz is seen on video camera having a physical altercation with Turner before fatally shooting her in the apartment building where she lived.
The Forward Times will continue to follow all these cases and keep our readers updated.