HARRIS COUNTY, Texas - An Assistant District Attorney’s refusal to accept charges against a teenager who was caught carrying a gun illegally forced Houston Police Department Officers to charge the teen with littering in order to confiscate the pistol, according to the Houston Police Officers Union.
It happened during a routine traffic stop in southeast Houston on Sunday afternoon.
Two HPD officers pulled over a car driven by 17-year-old Anthony Gutierrez, with 18-year-old Rosemary Flores riding as his passenger.
Police officers said they saw a pistol get thrown out of the passenger window. Gutierrez later admitted that he told Flores to throw the loaded gun when he saw the police car.
When the officers called the district attorney’s intake division to file charges, two assistant DAs on duty refused to take them, telling the officers no crime had been committed.
"They just kept saying, 'It’s not a crime, he was just abandoning the gun,'” HPOU President Joe Gamaldi said.
Gamaldi said the assistant prosecutors were wrong.
"It’s unlawful carrying of a weapon (openly). I’ll take it one step further, the driver was 17 years old, you're not allowed to have a weapon when you’re under 18," he said.
In order to take the gun off the street, Gamaldi said the officers came up with the only other charge that seemed to fit: Littering.
"In that situation, they had nothing else. All they had was the Class C violation of littering. Once again, littering a gun out of a driver’s window,” Gamaldi said.
Gamaldi said the incident speaks to a much larger issue in the DA’s intake office: inexperience.
"She has decided that no longer will we have experienced prosecutors manning the intake office, we will instead hire people fresh out of law school to come and take these phone calls,” he said.
The DA's Office said Gamaldi's claim that the hiring of "inexperienced" prosecutors at the intake office was not true.
Neither Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg nor her staff was available to discuss the incident. KPRC2’s request for an interview was declined.
On Wednesday afternoon, DA spokesperson Dane Schiller issued a statement saying Gutierrez will face an additional charge: "We have taken an additional look at this matter and today filed a charge against the 17-year-old driver of carrying a handgun in a vehicle, in this case, the violation being that the weapon was in plain view as opposed to being concealed. This is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine.”
Editor's note: A spokesman for the District Attorney disputed the Police Union representative's statement that The Intake Division was staffed with inexperienced prosecutors. The spokesman stated the prosecutor who denied the gun charge has 21 years of experience and the prosecutor who filed the new charge has over 40 years of experience. He added the prosecutors in the intake shift have decades of experience and their work has been studied by multiple major cities and counties.
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