Three fatal police shootings in Texas should compel the country to examine the use of excessive force by police.
Last week’s fatal police shooting near a San Antonio campus of an unarmed student highlights yet again the national issue of the use of excessive force among police.
The deadly encounter occurred after University of Incarnate Word campus police pulled over 23-year-old Robert Cameron Redus at his apartment complex for allegedly speeding and driving erratically.
A struggle ensued between Redus and the UIW officer, which eventually led to the officer shooting Redus multiple times, according to the Alamo Heights Police Department.
An eyewitness who did not wish to be identified told a local radio station that the officer never warned Redus before shooting.
“I didn’t hear him say anything like, ‘Get down on your hands and knees,’ you know? I didn’t hear him say anything. He just started shooting,” the witness said. “He emptied the gun on him … Boom, boom, boom. Six shots — five or six.”
Margaret Garcia, the associate director of public relations at UIW told CBS News that Cpl. Chris Carter, the campus police officer who shot Redus, is currently on paid administrative leave while the Alamo Heights PD and the Texas Rangers investigate the incident.
As students and the victim’s family mourn, critics have raised questions about whether police applied lethal force for a minor infringement.
Police report vs eyewitness accounts
Police reports initially said that Redus got out of his truck and attacked Carter. But Alamo Heights police Lt. Cindy Pruitt revised the original report in a press conference, stating that “the suspect took away Officer Carter’s baton and hit him with it. Carter pulled his firearm and was able to knock the baton away from the suspect. The suspect continued to resist arrest and five shots were fired.”
In the wake of Redus’ death, students, friends and family held a candlelight vigil. Talking to MintPress, Jonathan Guajardo, the vigil’s organizer and a UIW student, said the news of his friend’s death was deeply disturbing.
“It makes no sense at all. I know Cameron would never do the things the police are claiming – it doesn’t fit,” Guajardo said.
“He’s not that type of person. And to think he’s capable physically taking a baton away from the police officer. Cameron is a 5’ 8 skinny guy — the cop is twice his size; no, this doesn’t make sense.”
Guajardo said Redus was a popular, talented student who was forging a promising career as a travel documentary filmmaker, adding that he is devastated by the loss of “a great artist, a great friend and the kindest of people.”
He accused the police of using excessive force.
“Even if he had been drinking, it’s a minor DUI; most people wouldn’t imagine being killed for this offense,” Guajardo said.
A statement from the university expressed sadness over the incident, but it has thus far been supportive of Carter.
But Guajardo says students have been disappointed by the university’s response, and they’re questioning the use of lethal force.
“Why didn’t they use the pepper spray – the whole thing would have calmed down if they used pepper spray,” Guajardo said.
Early reports say Redus was shot in the arm, leg, chest, neck and eye. Making matters worse, police confirmed that UIW police vehicles are equipped with dash cams, but the camera installed on the vehicle Carter was using had fallen off the day before the incident.
Beyond this campus-police incident, police throughout Texas have come under fire in the past year for excessive force and heavy-handed tactics, where minor altercations or cases of mistaken identities have ended in death.
In Fort Worth, officers in May emptied a Glock clip into an innocent man in a case of mistaken identity, killing 72-year old Jerry Waller. The police were responding to a burglary call — the only problem was they went to the wrong house.
Kathy Waller said she and her husband Jerry noticed bright lights from outside their bedroom window at about 1 a.m. He grabbed a .38-caliber pistol and went outside to see what was going on.
“He probably thought it was a group of yuckos out there or something messing around,” she said.
Upon seeing Waller on the street with a gun, police shot and killed him.
“I’m just curious as hell how it happened — I heard he was shot six times in the chest by a Glock, I guess, or whatever the police use. I’m disgusted,” she said.
In yet another incident in July, Larry Eugene Jackson was shot and killed by Austin Police detective Charles Kleinert, who was investigating a bank robbery. The detective shot Jackson in the back of the neck repeatedly after he allegedly fled and then struggled with the officer, according to the initial report. An amended report has since been filed that does not state that Jackson fled or fought with Kleinert. The family is pursuing a civil suit against the now retired police officer.
But Texas isn’t the only state dealing with allegations of excessive force. A local law enforcement officer in Minneapolis, who wished remain anonymous, told MintPress: “There will be more incidents like this within all police departments across the U.S. A lot of police training is to contain and eradicate violence and potential threats to people safety. There is very little training on talking to people, calming situations down. So people react according to their training.”
According to Bureau of Justice Statistics, a survey on the use of force by police revealed 84 percent of individuals who experienced excessive force or the threat of force felt that the police acted improperly.
The survey also indicated that race and racial profiling could be a contributing factor. In addition, males were more likely than females to have force used or threatened against them during contact with police in 2008, while blacks were more likely than whites or Hispanics to experience the use or threat of force.
The Minneapolis law enforcement officer attributed the problem to the significant pressure police face.
“When an officer reacts badly to an incident, it’s seen as what it is — a mistake under severe pressure.”