Sgt. Curtis Hampton: No Charges for HPD Officer Who Shot and Killed an Unarmed Blake Pate on Christmas Day
Blake Pate, an unarmed man who was shot and killed on Christmas Day by a cop, is "a victim of the Houston Police Department," says attorney David Hodges, who is representing the victim's family.
On December 25, 2011, Pate finished dinner at his family's home and headed towards his brother's place. Around 11 p.m., the 24-year old, the youngest of six kids, crashed his car into a tree at the 9300 block of Tidwell by the Lakecrest Village apartments, says Hodges.
"As witnesses described, Blake appeared to be disoriented because he'd just been in a car accident. He started to the nearest street light," explains Hodges on Thursday from the steps of the Harris County Criminal Justice Center building on Franklin Street.
"Along the way, Sergeant Curtis Hampton of the Houston Police Department intercepted him," says Hodges. A confrontation ensued. Hampton ended up on his back.
Hampton -- "fearing for his life," according to an HPD statement -- reached for his gun. He fired five to six shots. Three of them struck Pate, leaving the unarmed 24-year-old "dying by the side of the road on Christmas Day," says Hodges, who adds that several witnesses that he interviewed claim that Hampton overreacted by shooting Pate because the officer wasn't in danger.
"The world lost a beautiful person when they lost him," adds Blake's mother, Patsy Pate.
An autopsy report revealed zero drugs or alcohol in Pate's system. A background check into his criminal history turned up empty.
On Monday, a grand jury, who didn't hear testimony from any witnesses, issued a no-true bill, meaning they chose not to indict Hampton. Now the family is demanding a federal investigation regarding the conduct of an HPD officer who has been in hot water before.
In 2007, according to City of Houston documents obtained through an open-records request, Sergeant Hampton went overboard during a sexual role play with another HPD officer. "During the role play fantasy," reads Civil Service Commission documents, "he placed a pillow over Officer Brown's face while she was telling him to stop...Sergeant Hampton admitted that Officer Brown said, 'Don't do this to me.' Sergeant Hampton then states, 'as usual, I placed a pillow over her face to muffle her.'
"In no way can [Hampton's] behavior be defined as reasonable or prudent. He used a gun, handcuffs, and a pillow to muffle the Complainant's cries while he attempted to have sex with her without gaining her consent....it took the victim biting [Hampton's] penis and drawing blood before he stopped to consider whether or not she had consented to having sex with him."
For his "appealing lack of sound judgment," Hampton, who was not charged with a crime, received a five-day suspension.
In 2008, another HPD officer filed a complaint against Hampton for sexual misconduct.
"It is extremely disturbing that someone in a position of authority cannot see the error of what he did," reads an HPD Internal Affairs document. "The fact that [Sgt. Hampton] seeks to blame the victim makes his actions even more egregious."
Following the 2008 incident, HPD's Administrative Disciplinary Committee recommended an indefinite suspension for Hampton. He instead received a 15-day suspension. Hodges and the Pates wonder why Hampton is still on the force.
Shelby Stewart, a retired 28-year-old veteran of HPD, says that the current system makes it difficult to find officers guilty in cases similar to Pate's.
"If you take the Chad Holley case, anything short of a video of excessive force, then you will not get a sustained complaint against police officers," says Stewart. "If the administration, the upper echelons of the police department were concerned about misconduct and excessive force, you would have more sustained complaints of excessive force than you actually have."
Kallinen says that there hasn't been a single true bill or charge brought against any Harris County law-enforcement officer in the past 150 shootings of civilians.
"The Harris County District Attorney does not put people in place in the public integrity division which are going to honestly look at these crimes," says Kallinen. "We see an officer here who has a history of pointing a gun at another officer's head...and we still see [Sergeant Hampton] on the force."
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Houston Press' biggest stories.