The Slatest

Houston Grand Jury Clears Police Officer in Shooting of Unarmed Black Man

A Houston police officer stands by his squad car in 2006.

Photo by Dave Einsel/Getty Images

A Houston grand jury decided on Tuesday not to indict a police officer who shot and killed an unarmed black man in January. Officer Juventino Castro, a 10-year veteran of the force, was working as an off-duty security guard at a Houston strip mall that had recently experienced a string of robberies when he shot and killed 26-year-old Jordan Baker after a brief confrontation in the mall parking lot.

Castro was in uniform when he confronted Baker, thinking he was a potential burglar. Here’s how the police report of the incident read via the Houston Chronicle:

Castro’s attempt to stop Baker in the parking lot led to a brief struggle and foot chase, [a Houston Police Department] news release said. When Baker stopped running away, he reached into his waistband and charged the officer, police contend. Castro fired his gun once and struck Baker. The officer was not injured in the incident, police said.

It later turned out Baker was unarmed. Jordan Baker’s mom, Janet Baker, told local media she believed Castro racially profiled her son, who was wearing a black hooded sweatshirt, as a criminal. Shortly after the shooting earlier this year, Janet Baker told local ABC 13 News:

… her son was a student at Houston Community College. He had a young son, also named Jordan, who is just 7 years old. She said Jordan hadn’t been in trouble since he was in high school 10 years ago, and even that wasn’t serious enough to stay on his record.

“I want to express my deepest sympathies to Janet Baker and the entire Baker family,” local District Attorney Devon Anderson said in a statement. “I know they are disappointed, but the grand jury’s decision means they found that there was no probable cause to believe a crime was committed. It does not constitute an endorsement of the officer’s actions.”

For some perspective, the Houston Chronicle had this damning report on the performance of the grand juries in the county where Jordan was shot, Harris County: “Harris County grand juries have cleared [Houston Police Department] officers of criminal wrongdoing in all shootings since 2008. More than a quarter of the 121 civilians shot by the department’s officials from 2008 to 2012 were—like Baker— unarmed, according to a Houston Chronicle analysis.”