UPDATED: Man Reaches For a Can of Beer, Shot Dead by Officer Who Thought He Had a Gun:Bayou Body Count No. 96

Update: According to a Houston Chronicle report, witnesses say the dead man, Rufino Lara, did not have his hands in his pockets, but in the air. A witness also said the officers addressed them only in English.

An unidentified man was shot to death by a Houston police officer when he reached into his waistband -- contrary to the orders of the officer -- and she shot him, according to police.

There was no weapon on the man; he was reaching for a can of beer, investigators reported.

Officer J. McGowan and her partner were called to a shopping center in the 7000 block of Bissonnet where there were was a reported assault in progress. They arrived to find at least five suspects attacking one man.

According to investigating officers M. Khan, S. Anderson and Officers M. Chaney and I. Ulloa, who are Homicide Division senior police officers:

When the officers exited their patrol vehicle, one of the males began to walk away from the group. Officer McGowan gave verbal commands to the male, in English and Spanish, ordering him to return. As Officer McGowan approached the suspect, she noticed a bulge concealed underneath his shirt, near his waistband, which he was holding with his left hand. The suspect did not comply with Officer McGowan's verbal commands to stop and show his hands, and continued to walk away.

As Officer McGowan drew her duty weapon, her partner ran toward her direction to help. The suspect then reached into his left side waist band. The officers continued to give verbal commands to the suspect in English and Spanish. The suspect, with both hands on his left side, attempting to pull a concealed object out of his waist band, turned towards Officer McGowan. The officer, fearing for her life and the life of her partner, then discharged her duty weapon one time. striking the suspect in the chest. HFD paramedics were called and pronounced the male deceased. A preliminary search of the suspect indicated he did not have a weapon. Officers recovered the object (a can of beer) he was concealing.

As is customary in HPD officer-involved shooting incidents in the city limits, the case is being investigated by the HPD Homicide and Internal Affairs Divisions, as well as the Harris County District Attorney's Office.

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Margaret Downing is the editor-in-chief who oversees the Houston Press newsroom and its online publication. She frequently writes on a wide range of subjects.
Contact: Margaret Downing