In a bid to dispel what he called a false social media narrative spreading throughout Houston, Mayor Sylvester Turner on Wednesday pledged to release videos of the fatal shooting of Alva Braziel by city police on July 9.
“Let me be very clear: At 12:38 a.m. on that Saturday morning, Mr. Braziel was walking in the middle of the street,” Turner said at a hastily called City Hall news conference. “Mr. Braziel had a gun in his hand, and this was not an unarmed person. I know the video will speak for that.”
Turner said he had heard rumors that Braziel, 38, was unarmed and held his hands in the air when officers shot him multiple times as he stood in the middle of Cullen Boulevard. But he said video from police body cameras clearly shows a different story: Braziel holding a handgun and waving it at the officers while refusing their commands.
The mayor said the unstable political climate fanned by police shootings of black men in Louisiana and Mississippi, and fatal ambushes of police officers in nearby Dallas and Baton Rouge, persuaded him to make the videos public — an unprecedented move in his administration.
Turner said he hopes the videos will put rumors that Braziel was unarmed to rest, and prevent violence against Houston officers.
“I did not want another police officer shot at or killed, not based on that narrative, not in this city,” Turner said.
The mayor told city council members midday Wednesday that he would release the videos that same afternoon. At his news conference, Turner said he would wait until noon Thursday, to give the Braziels the opportunity to view the clips before the public does.
Turner noted protests planned for coming days and urged demonstrators to learn the facts of the shooting before making a judgment of the Houston Police Department.
The Houston chapter of national civil rights group Black Lives Matter plans to hold a rally on Saturday, the day of Braziel's funeral. On a Facebook page for the event, the group proclaimed Braziel had been murdered by police. The chapter did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Turner said he consulted with Interim Police Chief Martha Montalvo and Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson Harris before deciding to release the videos. Montalvo, who stood beside the mayor at the news conference, said police hope to demonstrate transparency by making the videos public.
A somber Turner said he takes no joy in showing the public that Braziel was indeed armed, and wished the father and husband had made different choices that fateful evening.
"If you're waving a gun and pointing a gun at police officers, I don't think that's going to be a good outcome," Turner said.