Roderick Brooks’ name has been added to the growing list of Black men killed during an encounter with law enforcement. This time a fatal shot was fired by Sgt. Garret Hardin of the Harris County, Texas Sheriff’s Office who chased Mr. Brooks for alleged shoplifting, said an attorney for his family.
The chase led to a struggle and ended with Mr. Brooks being shot in the neck, according to the attorney and the victim’s sister. According to the police account, Sgt. Hardin claimed Mr. Brooks reached for the officer’s taser.
“This is horrible. This was our baby brother,” Demetria Brooks-Glace told The Final Call. “I had no idea that this type of thing would happen, this is torment. This is terrible, I’ve never seen anything like this. Is it really okay for you to beat a man for shoplifting? He shoplifted, fine. Take him to jail, at least we can see him. We can’t see him anymore. It’s so horrible, I can’t get over it. I can’t get over this.
“He was a shoplifter. A shoplifter! He was not a bank robber! He was on his stomach. How is he going to turn around unless he’s double-jointed?” she asked. “I’m looking for that officer to not be a police officer any longer. He is a menace to society. There was no justification. This is taking the law into your own hands. Roderick was down. He should have never been shot. He was down on his stomach. He should have been taken to jail.”
The family demanded release of police body cam footage to see what happened. Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez showed two versions of the video on July 21 in a private viewing with the family, said the attorney. The first version was edited with police commentary that played in between moments that led up to the shooting and the second video was the raw, unedited version, she said. After watching the video family members said they had more questions than answers.
But after the private viewing with the family, the Harris County Sheriff’s Office released the video to the media on July 22.
“As the family is travelling three hours to bury their loved one, the sheriff’s department released an edited version of the body cam footage. The family is not even in a position to respond to it,” Atty. Sadiyah Evangelista Karriem, who is one of the lawyer’s representing the family, told The Final Call.
The police say the two men were fighting, Mr. Brooks grabbed the taser and the sergeant shot him. Mr. Brooks died at the scene. The Harris County Institute of Forensic Science concluded Mr. Brooks was fatally shot in his neck.
“We saw Roderick grab the taser and he was moving it away from his body, as to get it out of the way and then we saw the oﬃcer push his head down and take his weapon and ﬁre at him, killing him instantly,” said Attorney Karriem.
“We’re talking about a sergeant who is running after a shoplifter, a Class A misdemeanor, no arrest. The value of what he stole was less than the life of Roderick,” said the lawyer.
According to the attorney, several witnesses told the family that their loved one was shot in “cold blood.”
“Also in the unedited footage, you can hear the oﬃcer say after the shooting occurred ‘Roderick was able to take control of my taser,’ in the unedited footage you see him place the taser in front of Roderick and he relinquishes control of it—while he is getting his service weapon to shoot,” said Atty. Justin Moore, who also represents the family, to the media.
The deputy tases Mr. Brooks, who falls on the ground face down, the deputy gets on top of the victim and begins to punch him, Atty. Karriem said. “Then we were told that the officer took his weapon out, and he shot him in the back in the base of the neck and the head,” she said.
This is the same officer, continued Atty. Karriem, who was involved in a violent altercation several days prior to the July 8 shooting of Mr. Brooks.
The media reported Sgt. Hardin was being investigated for using his stun gun on someone else on a bridge on July 1.
“It’s my understanding this officer has complaints that were filed against him for internal racist events that happen,” said Atty. Karriem. “The Harris County sheriff’s department knows that they have a rogue cop, a bad apple, a racist cop in their department. Yet they still allow him to be on the force.”
Mr. Brooks was a 47 year old who had mental disabilities, said family members. Atty. Karriem conceded he had a long rap sheet for shoplifting. He usually shoplifted personal care items out of necessity, she said.
“Five witnesses said that the officer called him the ‘N’ word and then said, ‘I will kill. I will shoot you.’ The witnesses said the officer then commenced to shoot Roderick Brooks in the back of his head where his neck and skull meet instantly killing him,” said Atty. Karriem.
The Sherrif’s Office says Sgt. Hardin responded to a call from a Dollar General store that a Black man had shoplifted and pushed a manager. Sgt. Hardin saw Mr. Brooks and chased him on foot. That much everyone seems to agree on.
The Sherriff’s Office says the officer used his taser, which was not effective and the two began to fight. Officials said Mr. Brooks gained control of the sergeant’s taser and was shot.
Cell phone video obtained by Houston media outlets show moments after the shooting, Mr. Brooks was on his stomach and Sgt. Hardin was on top of him.
The sergeant was placed on mandatory administrative leave, said the Harris County Sheriff’s Office. “We plan to be thorough, transparent, and timely with our investigation,” the Sheriff’s Office said in a statement.
Mr. Brooks was eulogized during his July 22 funeral by community activist Deric Muhammad. “We lifted the family’s spirit from the words of the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan found in The Final Call newspaper when he addressed the police shooting of Michael Taylor in 1987,” said Mr. Muhammad.
“I talked about how justice is a prerequisite for life. I wanted to speak comforting words to the family that Roderick’s life was taken, but it was not being wasted,” he said. “I expressed to the family in no uncertain terms that we believe that God is using the life of Roderick Brooks to make a bigger point, to prove a bigger principle. He’s using him for His purpose.”
Mr. Muhammad added, “Roderick Brooks is a well-documented mental health patient and I think that makes all the difference in the world, but the officer didn’t even take the time to assess the situation.”
In addition to the family, the fatal police shooting has impacted the community. Kofi Taharka, national chairman of the National Black United Front, told The Final Call, “I think people have a certain amount of fatigue about seeing so many Black people murdered under suspicious circumstances by law enforcement.”