Lawyers and community leaders plan to address City Council this afternoon to ask that the city authorize an independent investigation that is transparent and open to the public into why officers shot more people in 2009 than in recent history, and how to stop it.
Last year, the cops killed 15 and wounded another 17, "an astronomical increase over the year before," says Houston civil rights attorney, Randall Kallinen. "We're not saying any of these are wrongful, but we need to see what the problem is and why this is happening."
The move on City Hall comes on the heels of a grand jury decision Monday to clear Officer Ryan Gardiner in the fatal shooting of John Barnes last year in Kingwood. Police have claimed that Gardiner, who was working as an off-duty security guard at an apartment complex, was responding to a fight Barnes and his girlfriend were having. Police say that Barnes knocked the Taser out of Gardiner's hands and that the officer shot Barnes in self-defense.
Barnes' girlfriend, however, says the police version is not true.
She claims that Barnes was trying to tell Gardiner that he had a metal plate in his head and that a Taser shock could harm him, and that Barnes was not a threat to the officer at all.
Kallinen says he asked for Barnes' autopsy report from the Harris County Medical Examiner yesterday, once the grand jury had concluded, but was denied. He says this is yet another in a long line of ways that the city keeps information about officer-involved shootings tightly under wraps.
"The incident reports are never published, the homicide report is never published, the Internal Affairs Division report is never published, and the grand jury is secret," Kallinen says, "so we're calling for an independent investigation that's open to the public, one that is not conducted by the police department or the district attorney's office, into why there's been this increase in shootings."
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