The family of Roderick Brooks, a Black man fatally shot by sheriffs officer Sergeant Garrett Hardin, a Houston sheriff’s officer, recently filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Hardin.
The suit seeks to make the case that Brooks’ death was avoidable in part because of misconduct Hardin was guilty of that went unpunished.
Hardin critically injured a man just one week before shooting and killing Brooks, yet Hardin remained fully employed and faced no disciplinary action.
The lawsuit asserts that one week before killing Brooks, Hardin approached a man who was under the influence and used his stun gun on him, causing the man to fall over an overpass and fall 35 feet, thus becoming “critically injured.”
Earlier this year, shortly after Hardin shot and killed the unarmed Brooks on July 8, the Defender reported that local community leaders and activists Deric Muhammad, Dr. Abdul Muhammad and Sadiyah Evangelista Karriem held a press conference that brought Brooks’ killing to the public’s attention.
According to reports, after a call was placed to Harris County law enforcement, the officer that shot Brooks was said to have jumped out of this vehicle, pursued Brooks on foot, and after catching him, shot Brooks with a taser, pummeled him with his fists and then fatally shot him in the neck.
One of the main questions Muhammad and others asked at that press conference centered on why a reported shoplifting incident had to serve as a literal death sentence for Brooks, who has been described by those who knew him as a gentle, harmless spirit.
“It is the officer’s job to de-escalate situations like these,” said Deric Muhammad. “The problem with this case is, there is really no situation to de-escalate. The situation was escalated by the deputy.
The press conference was also attended by family members of Brooks, as well as Warren Randle, the father of Jalen Randle, another Houston-area unarmed Black man shot and killed by police in April.
“This was not a violent human being. He was unarmed. He was not a threat to anybody. He was so-called shoplifting from the Dollar General. What could be valued high enough in a damn Dollar General to where it was worth taking somebody’s life? Everybody in this room knows that if that had been a German Shepherd, they would have treated it better than they treated Roderick Brooks,” said Muhammad.
HPD released body camera footage of the incident showing that at one point before the shooting, Brooks grabbed Hardin’s stun gun when it fell but never pointed it in Hardin’s direction. Moreover, Brooks never gained real control of the stun gun while pinned on his stomach.
“I will f*cking shoot you,” said Hardin to Brooks while tussling for the stun gun.
This local tragedy has now become national news after Brooks’ family filed the lawsuit.
Family attorney and local activist Karriem told HuffPost, “Harris County is harboring a criminal; we will use every tool of justice that we can to get justice for Roderick Brooks.”
An August HuffPost report seems to validate Karriem’s claim. According to that report, since 2004 the Harris County Sheriff’s Office suspended Hardin without pay on eight separate occasions. The reasons? Infractions including crashing his patrol car into another vehicle, giving false statements to his supervisors and making lewd and sexual remarks to officers working under him.
Moreover, according to Harris County Sheriff’s office policy, deputies are not supposed to use electric shock devices on people who are on an “elevated or unstable surface,” the lawsuit says.
Hardin was never placed on administrative leave in the case, and one week later he shot Brooks.