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This is really getting close to home. It's about a mile from my house. I know the officer didn't want to use deadly force, but you do what you must.
By STEFANIE THOMAS
Authorities said an officer-involved shooting that left one man dead in the parking lot of the Woodland Hills Apartments in Kingwood late Saturday evening was a case of self-defense on the officer’s part.
According to Houston Police Department spokesman Victor Senties, HPD Officer Ryan Gardner, who is assigned to the HPD Northeast Division and has been with the department for seven years, was finishing his rounds of the apartment community around 10 p.m. as he was working an extra job as a courtesy officer at the apartment complex when he observed a man and a woman arguing in front of one of the apartment buildings.
“[Gardner] approached the male and gave him commands to ‘Come here, come here!’” Senties said. “The suspect ignored the commands [and] at some point the officer and the suspect got into a physical struggle. The suspect managed to get the officer’s Taser out from his holster, points it at the officer and tells him, ‘You’re dead.’ At this point the officer, fearing for his safety, takes out his service weapon and fires an undetermined amount of time.”
Gardner was officially off-duty, according to Senties, but the extra job was approved by the department and Gardner was in uniform.
Witnesses at the scene said they heard several gunshots.
“I was sitting in the parking lot in my car and I heard four or five shots,” said Kerry Robinson, who was visiting a cousin who lives at the apartment complex. “I ducked down and, next thing I know, someone was dead.”
Christina Miller, who also heard the gunshots, said she was shocked and appalled to learn that the man she had chatted with at the apartment community’s pool only a couple of hours earlier had been fatally shot.
“I just met the guy at the pool and he introduced me to his children,” Miller said. “He left about 30 minutes before [my friend and I] did and I heard at least six or seven gunshots go off.”
Other witnesses said they had just spoken with Gardner, who police said lives on the premises, when he reminded them the pool closes at 10 p.m. and asked them to leave the pool area.
Although police did not release the suspect’s identity, Miller said the man was a resident at the complex and was shot in front of his own apartment. Miller also said that the victim told her during their poolside conversation that he was in his mid-30s and a wrecker driver by trade.
At least two dozen tow truck drivers showed up at the scene to find out if in fact the victim was one of their own. Police did not immediately confirm the victim’s occupation or his place of residence.
Senties said Gardner would be placed on three days of administrative duties.
“I want to reiterate that that’s not a punishment; it’s just a way for the officer to decompress and get back into the routine of things,” Senties said. “It’s a very traumatic situation whenever an officer has to discharge [his] weapon. The last thing they want is for an encounter with a suspect to turn out this way.”
Senties said the woman involved in the argument with the suspect was not harmed in the shooting. He added that the two knew each other but the exact nature of their relationship was not known at the time.
The case remains under investigation by the HPD homicide and internal affairs divisions, as well as the Harris County District Attorney’s Office.
Sunday, August 2, 2009
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