Trial begins for deputy accused of shooting unarmed man in middle of street
HARRIS COUNTY, Texas – The trial began Thursday in the case of a former Harris County Sheriff's deputy who is accused of fatally shooting an unarmed man in the Greenspoint area in March 2018.
What we know
Cameron Brewer was charged with aggravated assault by a public servant.
Brewer is accused of fatally shooting Danny Thomas. Video from the dash camera of Brewer's patrol unit recorded the encounter. Brewer was not wearing a body camera. Officials said it was charging in his patrol unit.
It's a case that has called into question the mental health training deputies undergo.
Brewer is charged with aggravated assault by a public servant.
In March 2018, video captured Danny Thomas wandering through a Greenspoint-area intersection with his pants around his ankles, slapping at cars.
Brewer ordered Thomas, who was unarmed, to stop. Officials said Thomas kept advancing and Brewer shot him one time, killing him.
Brewer was terminated by the Harris County Sheriff’s Office one month after the shooting for not adhering to the department's use of force policy.
He later was indicted on a charge of aggravated assault by a public servant.
The shooting sparked protests and criticism that Brewer didn't use his Taser to stop Thomas.
Brewer maintains he acted in self-defense.
Who testified Thursday?
Two witnesses testified on the first day of the trial.
Chivas Guillote, vice president of clinical service for Harris County Emergency Corps, testified he responded to the scene as a ranking EMT.
Guillote said medics had arrived at the intersection of Imperial Valley Drive and Greens Road by the time he'd gotten there. He said Thomas already had been lifted into an ambulance. Thomas was unconscious at the time of his arrival, Guillote said.
Detective Matthew Millington testified after Guillote. Millington is a detective for the Houston Police Department's Special Investigations Unit.
For the most part, Millington's testimony covered logistics -- what he did at the scene and at police headquarters the day of the shooting: He reviewed the dashcam video, interviewed Brewer, and among other tasks, took Brewer's statement.
"I fired my duty weapon and struck him one time in the chest because I was in fear for not only my life, but the lives of others," Brewer is quoted saying in his sworn statement to HPD the day of the shooting.
Millington testified that Brewer's statement also included a description of Thomas: Thomas had bloodshot eyes and was foaming at the mouth, and refused Brewer's commands to stop walking toward him.
"But couldn't Brewer have handled the matter differently?" That's what prosecutors asked. Why did Brewer fire his gun? Why didn't he use his Taser? Since Thomas wasn't armed, why didn't Brewer try to subdue him?
"How would the pants inhibit the man in the white shirt [Thomas]," asked the prosecution.
"He's taking smaller steps," Millington testified.
"What, if anything, do you see in the hands of the man in the white shirt?" the prosecution pressed.
"I don't see anything," Millington responded.
"If you’re being met with physical force are you allowed to use deadly force?" the prosecution asked.
"No," Millington said.
Brewer's defense pushed back, highlighting the fact that Brewer said in his written statement he was scared for his safety as well those outside. Moreover, they pointed out, based on Brewer's training, it was obvious Thomas was under the influence of drugs: foaming at the mouth and not responding to commands.
The medical examiner's report confirmed Thomas had PCP in his system.
Jurors didn't enter the courtroom until after 11 a.m., following a nearly two-hour hearing on what the defense argued was potentially exculpatory information that arose one week ago.
Before trial, one of the investigating officers mentioned Brewer was justified in fatally shooting Danny Thomas.
The prosecution learned of this information on July 25 but didn't tell the defense until Monday, which led to Brewer's defense raising a red flag over concerns of whether the Brady Disclosure had been violated.
The Brady Disclosure consists of exculpatory evidence, or evidence favorable to the defendant, that must be disclosed by the prosecution.
Both sides resolved the matter, though, and testimony began.
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