For the second time in two years -- the only two times in its almost 30-year history -- a Metro officer has fatally shot someone.
Nolton Joseph LaFleur III, whose age is unknown, was shot by Metro police officer Richard Hernandez on the west side of town yesterday afternoon. (Update: HPD has corrected its spelling of the first name from "Norton" to "Nolton" and says he was 29.)
Hernandez said LaFleur was reaching for a gun that was in the front-seat cup container of the Nissan he was driving.
The incident, which happened about 2:20 p.m. in the 6000 block of Fairdale, began when LaFleur was seen speeding and driving through a red light, HPD says.
Then things got odd.
HPD's version is this:
Hernandez followed the Nissan to the entry gate of an apartment complex. The passenger jumped out. (That man, Brandon Stevenson, 27, was wanted on a robbery warrant out of Arkansas and was arrested.)
Hernandez approached the car on the driver's side and says he saw the gun and told LaFleur to put up his hands.
The complex gate then opened and Stevenson ran into the complex. Lafleur put his vehicle in reverse, backed the car around the patrol vehicle, continued in reverse on Fairdale and backed the Nissan into a drainage ditch on the north side of the street. Lafleur then repeatedly put the vehicle in drive and reverse in an attempt to get out of the ditch. METRO Police Officer Hernandez then approached the vehicle on the driver's side and repeated verbal commands for LaFleur to put his hands up. At that time, an HPD patrol officer arrived at the scene to assist METRO Police Officer Hernandez.
Lafleur ignored METRO Police Officer Hernandez's verbal commands and reached for his pistol.
HPD says Hernandez told them he had been "fearing for his safety and that of the HPD officer on the scene."
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He shot "several times"; the HPD officer did not shoot.
"As is customary in officer-involved shootings occurring in the city limits, this case is being investigated by the HPD Homicide Division and the Harris County District Attorney's Office," HPD says.
In 2009, a Metro officer shot a man near the Rice campus when, he said, the man had "lunged" at him with a knife. The officer was no-billed by a grand jury.
Update: Metro tells us Hernandez is a 12-year vet and will be placed on three-day administrative duty.