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Houston Police Department under scrutiny after recent string of deadly officer-involved shootings

The Houston Police Department is being scrutinized after six deadly officer-involved shootings in the past five weeks. This is as Houston’s Police Chief Art Acevedo comments on the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis this week.

Floyd, a Houston native, died while he was being detained by officers in Minneapolis Monday. Videos showed Floyd on lying face down on the ground with one officer putting his knee on the back of his neck.

“First and foremost on behalf of the Houston Police Department, we extend our condolences to the Floyd family,” Acevedo said at a news conference Thursday to address Floyd’s death.

Recent officer-involved shootings

However, the Houston Police Department is being questioned after that string of shooting deaths of six suspects since April 21.

At this time, there is no indication that any of the shootings weren’t justified. But the transparency about these shootings, and the deadly shootings at Harding Street last year, is being questioned.

“Houston, we have a problem,” said local activist Dav Lewis. “Mayor Turner, we have a problem."

Former Houston police officer Shelby Stewart agrees.

“I can’t remember this many shootings happening in this short a period of time,” he said.

In the three years, Acevedo has been in charge, there have been 54 officer-involved shooting resulting in 20 deaths. The six deaths in Houston since April 21 are more than all the deaths in 2017 and one less than in all of 2018.

Calls for transparency

Stewart, Lewis and other community leaders went to HPD’s headquarters this week calling for transparency.

“This was just the beginning of the work that we needed to do to hold our city officials accountable,” said Lewis.

Lewis founded the group, 2nd Chances Life, and was close friends with Adrian Medearis, a well-known gospel singer who was shot to death during a fight with HPD officers on May 8.

“When one involves your friend, it’s a different fight,” he said.

An FBI Investigation

This week, Chief Acevedo told KPRC 2 Investigates that the FBI was looking at video in the fatal shooting of Nicholas Chavez on April 21.

“They have been given everything that they have asked for and I made the call to the (special agent in charge) here locally,” Acevedo said.

Acevedo has said in the past that he believes in transparency. But so far, he has not released videos of shootings involving his officers.

During a time when he is calling news conferences to comment on George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis, he said releasing videos involving HPD may taint local jury pools and create unfair trials for the officers.

But Lewis doesn’t buy the claims of transparency. He said he feels what’s said in front of the cameras is different from the actions away from them.

“Acevedo has talking points as if he [is] truly looking out for the family,” he said. “Acevedo is looking out for his department.”

Lewis is quick to admit, though, that the vast majority of police officers serve with dignity and honor, and he knows this because he has family friends within HPD’s ranks.