HOUSTON – Houston police and Mayor Sylvester Turner released Thursday all available videos of the deadly police shooting of Alva Braziel earlier this month in southeast Houston.
But the video release did to happen at the scheduled press conference as initially expected. Instead, the mayor opted to release the recordings on the HPD YouTube channel.
HPD policy states that police officers with body cameras are supposed to activate them once they arrive at a scene.
But the two police officers who shot and killed Braziel, after they say he waved a gun and pointed the weapon at them, did not turn their cameras on until after those fatal shots were fired.
“They were so in the moment worried about the threat, they didn't even put the car in park, so let alone did they even have time to turn on their body cameras. They had to deal with the threat that was right in front of them,” Joseph Gamaldi, vice president of the Houston Police Officers’ Union, said.
According to HPD policy, it may be impractical or unreasonable for an officer to activate their body camera taking police action.
In the raw surveillance video from the gas station near the scene of the deadly police officer-involved shooting, the officers opened fire 13 seconds after pulling up to the scene. Six seconds after Braziel raises his hands, he is shot and killed.
Gamaldi watched the unedited video from different angles that was released by the mayor and police chief.
“When the officer does walk up on the suspect you can clearly see the firearm in his hand with his finger in the trigger guard and his finger on the trigger. This is a justified shooting," Gamaldi said. "This suspect pointed a firearm at officers and they had no choice. It was either their life or him.”
In addition to the gun, Gamaldi says officers found the drug ecstasy on Braziel.
Turner said Wednesday there was evidence to lead authorities to believe Braziel was under the influence at the time he was shot and killed.
The video contains three different angles: surveillance video from a nearby gas station, which KPRC 2 has already reported on; body cam footage from a responding police officer; and body cam video from the second responding officer.
The body cam video shows Braziel lying on the ground with what appears to be a gun in his right hand.
The Houston Police Department has a written policy for the use of body cams that states officers are required to turn on their cameras:
- When they are arriving on a scene
- When they self-initiate any law enforcement activity
- During a traffic or pedestrian stop
- Anytime a citizen flags them down
- If they are engaging in a pursuit
There is an exception. Officers do not have to turn on the camera when it might be "unreasonable or impractical to do so because of safety reasons."
Houston Police Chief Martha Montalvo released a statement Thursday afternoon that read:
"The body camera footage doesn't capture the shooting of Mr. Braziel. The two officers viewed the threat to themselves and the public as immediate, stopped their patrol vehicle and exited the vehicle even before it was in park. Once the threat was contained, officers activated their cameras.
"There is a provision (Item 10: Failure to Activate BWC) in our body camera general order (which mirrors state law) under Failure to Activate the Camera that states 'there may be circumstances where it is immediately necessary for the officer to act in order to ensure his safety or the safety of others. In those situations, it may be impractical or unreasonable for the officer to activate their BWC before taking police action. In these instances, the officer shall activate his BWC as soon as it is safe to do so, to ensure that the remainder of the incident is properly recorded. HPD will continue to stress in training the importance of activating the BWC.
"As to whether policies were adhered to in this case, that will be part of the investigation, which is still active."
Turner initially announced a press conference to release the videos Wednesday afternoon, but instead the mayor said he would honor the request of Alva Braziel's family to have one more opportunity to view the video if it desired. He said a family attorney called him Wednesday to ask for more time.
Turner made the decision to release the video Thursday after the family viewed the recordings.
After viewing the video Thursday, Braziel's wife, Nikkita Braziel, said, "They say he waved it at them. He didn't wave no gun at them. You can hear the people on the side say, 'Why is you shooting him down like that?' And then you can hear the law come back to his truck and say, '(Expletive).' They (expletive) up.'"
Nikkita said the video does not show her husband point a gun at the officers. She said people will be outraged.
"It was hard to watch. I just wanted to see where he pointed the gun at them. That was not shown. What was showed was where they gunned him down," she said. "In his last breath I heard the people say, 'He tried.' He say(s) we're calling the ambulance for you.' Yes he wanted help. He took his last breath and the man walked back and said, '(Expletive). 'What does that mean?"
Though Nikkita thinks the public will be upset after seeing the video, she asks that everyone remain calm and let the justice system work.
"I want the public that's already outraged to just stay calm, just for us, just stay calm. We're going to bury him Saturday. Just stay calm, because we're going to get justice," she said.
Turner said July 11 he wanted any video to be released "because tensions are running high." He said he also asked the U.S. Department of Justice to review the shooting.
Turner said Wednesday he was compelled to release the video now because of what he said is "a lot of dangerous misinformation" that's floating around on social media.
Turner said he's watched the video, and that social media posts claiming Braziel was unarmed are false. In the wake of what happened in Dallas and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Turner said he wants to do everything in his power to make sure the most accurate information is available to the public.
"I want to be sensitive to the family. There is a lot of false narrative out there. I don't want a police officer to be shot at (and) hurt. The video clearly demonstrates Mr. Braziel was armed," Turner said.
He said there is evidence to suggest Braziel was under the influence at the time he was shot but would not elaborate.
Ray Hunt, president of the Houston Police Officers' Union, had been calling for the release of all the video since the shooting occurred earlier this month.
Both officers involved in the shooting are on paid administrative leave while the case is under investigation. Officers Lopez and Macias were sworn in as officers in May 2003 and June 2006, respectively. Both are assigned to the Gang Division.
The case is being investigated by the HPD Homicide and Internal Affairs divisions, as well as the Harris County District Attorney's Office.
People in southeast Houston were upset body camera video released in a police shooting didn't show the moments before.
"Something in the milk ain't clean," community member Neicy Bibbs said.
People who live near Cullen Boulevard and Ward Street had questions Thursday night.
"It starts right from when he's on the ground, so I would like to know what actually happened," Kareem Walker said.
Houston police released body camera video showing the moments after two police officers shot and killed Braziel on July 9. An officer can be seen removing a gun from the man's hand.
"He's in the middle of the street pointing the gun at us," said an officer in the video.
But that's what the video doesn't show, because officers weren't yet rolling.
"Mr. Braziel is walking onto Cullen with a gun in his hand, he turns around and points it in the direction of the police officers," Turner said.
"They got out and they got the shooting and it was over with. Then they cut the thing on, so how did he see the man pointing the gun," Darel Daniel said about Turner's comments.
HPD policy said it may be "unreasonable" for officers to turn their cameras on.
"They were so in the moment worried about the threat. They didn't even put the car in park, so let alone did they even have time to turn on their body cameras," Gamaldi said.
Still, community members wanted more answers.
"They showed you what they wanted you to see," Bibbs said. "It's not right."