ABOVE: Roderick Brooks
Black man with mental illness killed after stealing $1 worth of shampoo from store; Activists say officer’s actions are worse than the George Floyd incident caught on camera
Does a Black man’s life have less value than a $1 worth of shampoo taken from a dollar store?
Sadly, at least here in Harris County, Texas, it appears so!
The George Floyd tragic murder caught on camera completely riveted this nation.
The mere thought of witnessing the unsubstantiated murder of an unarmed Black man on camera by a member of law enforcement in this country is hard to fathom.
Seeing it again, after the tremendous outcry and overwhelming response for change and accountability after the George Floyd murder, is even more unfathomable and sickening.
Here in Harris County, Texas, the recent murder of Roderick Brooks, 47, may very well be the next high-profile incident that could not only trump the George Floyd incident but have the potential to turn this country upside down, once the full, unedited video of the murder of this unarmed Black man is released to the public.
Brooks was killed after being chased down, beaten, and tasered for stealing roughly a dollar worth of shampoo from the store.
Activists who have heard from key sources who have seen the video, are saying that the actions of the white officer who killed Brooks is far worse than the George Floyd incident that was caught on camera and could lead to protests that are unparalleled to anything we have ever seen.
So, what happened that caused the murder of this unarmed Black man in broad daylight by this white law enforcement official who was responding to a shoplifting call?
On July 8th, a call was made around 6:30 pm 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 then shows Brooks running from Sgt. Hardin through the parking lot of a gas station, before the officer catches up to Brooks and says, “Stop, dude. I’m gonna taze you. Stop! Get on the ground!”
After attempting to run away from Sgt. Hardin again, Brooks was hit with a taser and the officer tackles Brooks to the ground after the taser was deployed.
Brooks can be heard on the video asking Sgt. Hardin why he was being tasered and requesting that the officer get off him, before attempting to trying to get off the ground and get away. A struggle ensues between the two men, before Brooks reaches for Sgt. Hardin’s already deployed taser that was on the ground near his head, as seen on the video.
Again, keep in mind that Sgt. Hardin had already deployed his taser.
After a struggle over the taser that had already been deployed by Sgt. Hardin, the bodycam video shows the officer pushing Brooks’ head to the ground, pulling out his firearm, and then delivering a kill shot to the back of the neck of Brooks. Sgt. Hardin is then seen calling for an ambulance after killing Brooks, who was pronounced dead at the scene.
There were several witnesses on the scene when the incident occurred, including someone who captured the incident on their cell phone and shared the video footage.
The way the media has tried to paint the narrative of Brooks has been troubling, has been to label the 47-year-old Black man as disrespectful to law enforcement and a menace to society.
According to those closest to Brooks, this narrative is far from the truth!
Brooks was loved by his family, and according to them, he had a history of mental illness.
“Shoplifting does not warrant anyone to kill a man while he’s on his stomach,” said Demetria Brooks-Glaze, the sister of Roderick Brooks. “My brother is going to get justice.”
The Brooks’ family reached out to solicit the help of Attorney Sadiyah Evangelista-Karriem, who has been on the frontline assisting them with seeking justice for their loved one.
According to Evangelista-Karriem, the family reached out to her on Saturday morning and needed her help in trying to find out where Brooks’ body was, in that they found out that he had been murdered by the officer after receiving phone calls from people who witnessed what happened and through news reports in the media.
“The family of Roderick Brooks is devastated at what happened to him,” said Evangelista-Karriem. “Roderick Brooks was killed for something that was nothing more than a Class C Misdemeanor, and nothing more. When you look at the autopsy report, and where he was shot and killed, it was at the base of the neck right by the skull. That’s an execution-style murder.”
Evangelista-Karriem states that there was visible blunt force trauma on Brooks’ face because of Sgt. Hardin beating him to death before fatally shooting him. She also said that just a week prior to killing Brooks, Sgt. Hardin deployed his taser on another Black man who fell over 35 feet to the ground after having a mental illness episode on top of a freeway bridge in Harris County.
According to the witnesses on the scene at this separate issue, the officer is alleged to have said, “I’m gonna light his ass up.”
According to community activist Deric Muhammad, who is also assisting the family with the case, several witnesses heard the officer use the “N-word” while chasing after Brooks, and states that without the complete unedited video, there is no way to substantiate those claims. Muhammad also states that they have received intelligence from reliable sources within law enforcement that have confirmed to them that Sgt. Hardin has a history of questionable, racist activity that has been documented. He also states that this same officer has allegedly been “no-billed” after the killing of another suspect. Muhammad believes something more must be done to address the bigger issue of allowing law enforcement officials to keep killing unarmed Blacks.
“We have allowed a racist, white supremacist police officer to slip through the cracks,” said Muhammad. “Not only was Sgt. Hardin patrolling a Black neighborhood by himself, but he is also a supervisor. Who jumps out of their police cruiser to chase down a shoplifter without calling for back up? Who does that? And you mean to tell me that this man was allowed to be in a supervisory position and make these types of decisions? This is a problem.”
Muhammad states that the problem is not the lack of diversity, or the lack of Blacks in leadership positions in law enforcement, or defunding the police, but rather racist policing of Black people.
Evangelista-Karriem states that there is an internal problem of systemic racism in the Harris County Sheriff’s Department, which perpetuates behavior and outcomes like the ones involving Brooks and others.
“Here you have an officer (Sgt. Hardin) who they knew internally had an issue with racial incidents, and now this rogue officer, who has been on leave several different times for questionable actions, is allowed to stay on the street,” said Evangelista-Karriem. “They knew that Sgt. Hardin is a liability to the Black community, and they allowed him to terrorize again.”
During a recent meeting with the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, after demanding that the video footage and autopsy information be released, the family and their representatives were only allowed to view two edited versions of the body camera footage. After the family viewed those two edited versions, another version that was further edited was released to the public.
The murder of Brooks 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.
Muhammad, Evangelista-Karriem, and the Brooks family are demanding more.
- They believe that the video that was released to the public has been edited and watered down, in an effort to mislead the public and exonerate the officer. They want the entire, unedited versions of the videos to be released, which show that Brooks was an unarmed, harmless, and fleeing suspect, who was just trying to get away from being caught. The family does not trust this process.
- They are demanding Sgt. Hardin be fired and subsequently charged with murder.
- They are calling on the community to call the Harris County Sheriff’s Office and demand the firing of Sgt. Hardin, and to call the Harris County District Attorney’s Office to demand that he be charged with murder.
What is a life worth?
Roderick Brooks had a history of mental illness.
Roderick Brooks had a history of shoplifting for toiletries.
Roderick Brooks didn’t deserve to be killed for those reasons.
Again, does a Black man’s life have less value than a $1 worth of shampoo taken from a dollar store? Hopefully, the process and outcomes of the investigation will show that is not the case.
The Forward Times will continue to follow this case and keep our readers updated.