A Texas deputy who shot and killed an unarmed man in April gave the usual spiel to justify it, claiming he had smelled marijuana, claiming that the driver was reaching for something and then claiming that the driver had grabbed his gun.
And as usual, a grand jury bought the story, finding no reason to indict Harris County Constable Precinct 5 Deputy R. Felix on Wednesday, clearing him of any wrongdoing.
But a dash cam video of the shooting that was released after the grand jury’s decision has prompted cries of injustice from the victim’s family as well as from Black Lives Matter activists.
“The police murdered my son,” he said between drags from a cigarette. “(The officer) opened the door to the car, with his hand on his gun, and put the gun up against his body, and shot my son.”
Hours earlier, in a courtroom in the building behind him, a grand jury on Wednesday morning no-billed the Precinct 5 deputy who killed Barnes’s son, Ashtian, in April. The elder Barnes, who already believed the officer should have been indicted, said the video that prosecutors only allowed him to see after the grand jury finished contradicts the police narrative of what happened that fateful afternoon.
“It don’t match up. If it ain’t the whole truth, it’s a lie,” Barnes said.
Ashtian Barnes, 24, was killed on April 28 after Felix pulled him over, claiming the car he was driving had a large amount of unpaid toll violations.
Barnes told him it was a rental car and he had been driving it about a week, so those violations had nothing to do with him.
Keeping his hand on his gun, Felix tells Barnes that he smells marijuana and orders him to open the trunk.
The dash cam video shows the trunk come open, then Felix opens the door to the car and orders Barnes to step out.
Four seconds later, the taillights go on, indicating that Barnes has started the car.
Felix then draws his gun, jumps on the car and yells, “Don’t fucking move!”
The car starts moving forward in the emergency lane with Felix riding it, which is when he shoots several times.
“Shots fired, shots fired,” he yells after the car comes to a rest about a 120 feet up ahead.
Police said at the time Felix had claimed the car smelled of marijuana and Barnes didn’t have a license or proof of insurance. During the traffic stop, Barnes repeatedly reached on the floor of the car, digging through papers as if he was reaching for something, said Kese Smith, an HPD spokesman. Felix called for backup, opened the car door and told Barnes to step outside his car. Barnes turned on the car, as Felix told him not to.
Then, Felix drew his weapon, police said. Barnes began to accelerate as the driver’s side door of the car was still open. The deputy thought he might get run over, and held on to the door as the car traveled about 120 feet. Officials said then that Felix had reached for the deputy’s gun. When Felix felt Barnes’ hand on his hand and gun, he fired his weapon twice. Backup hadn’t yet arrived.
The dashcam video released Wednesday shows Felix stepping onto the footrail moments before the car begins moving. It is unclear from the video exactly when the deputy constable fires his weapon.
In a statement, officials with the Harris County District Attorney’s Office said the grand jury had heard the case over two sessions by a group of 12 people that included three African-Americans and three Hispanics.
“The presentation was comprehensive and responsive to the needs of the grand jury,” Harris County D.A.’s Civil Rights Division Chief Julian Ramirez said in the release. “The 183rd Grand Jury handled this case with great care.”
Since the shooting, there has never been any mention of any marijuana or guns found in the car.
Watch the video below and tell us whether you think the deputy truly should have believed he was about to be run over.