Even with just a few reports in, it's clear the law is already starting to do what its authors presumably intended - giving a fuller picture of the statewide frequency (too frequent) and severity (all over the map) of police shootings, which sometimes aren't even publicized in the local media. While most shootings do get local press coverage, few ever rise to state or national attention. But like the tree falling in the forest with no one to hear it, media silence doesn't mean the victims were less shot.
There are not enough cases yet to draw any conclusions about broad trends (right now, it's "anecdote" not data). And the reports don't list names for officers or victims. But the early cases are interesting. Here are summaries of the seven posted so far, two of which, interestingly enough, came from Freeport, TX:
Freeport: Officer mistook phone for gun
The very first report under the new law sounds like so many others: an unarmed black man was shot while sitting in his car after being stopped by police after what they say was a tip that the man had crack cocaine. The injured driver was eventually charged with evading arrest and his passenger with public intoxication, but no drug charges. A local news report filled in the story:
A Freeport officer spotted the vehicle and tried to pull the driver over. At first, the driver, identified as Mayberry, stopped, but then took off, leading police on a short chase.A later news report provides this salient detail: "No gun was immediately found at the scene, but a dark-colored cell phone was on the ground outside the driver's door of Mayberry's car after the shooting."
The fleeing vehicle stopped in the parking lot of an apartment complex at 1010 Magnolia. The officer ordered the occupants to show their hands. As the officer approached, the driver reportedly turned his body towards him while holding a dark colored object. Fearing for his life, the officer fired, hitting the suspect in the shoulder.
Plano: Practice makes perfect
The next day, in Plano, it looks like a cop accidentally shot someone at the shooting range. Grits could find no press coverage of the incident.
Houston: A tragic 'change of heart'
Two days later in Houston, a 21-year old black male was seriously injured after police responded to an emergency call. This incident didn't get much local coverage but according to one report, the man was standing in the middle of the road shooting a gun. After initially complying with officer's commands, the HPD spokesperson said that the man "had a change of heart," reached into his waistband, and the officer shot him three times (in the back, groin and leg).
Freeport: A mysterious death
After that flurry of police shootings, Texas took a short breather, but the next incident report for September 13th raises more questions than it answers. Two officers from the Alvin, Texas police department apparently shot a 29 year old white male to death down in Freeport, nearly 40 miles away, while executing a warrant. According to the document filed with the Attorney General the man was armed. There appears to be no press coverage of the incident at all. There's also nothing over in the AG's "death in custody" database to match the incident.
Balch Springs: At least they didn't shoot the dog
On September 16th, in another unreported incident, a Balch Springs officer responding to a vicious dog complaint shot an unarmed white woman at a single family home on Marriott Avenue. She was not killed.
Dallas: Suicide by cop?
Then finally, Monday September 21 saw shootings in El Paso and Dallas. The Dallas incident garnered significant press coverage as bystander video shows a half undressed, drug addled Gerardo Ramirez running through an apartment complex parking lot shooting a gun. He was killed after shooting at officers on the scene. There has been speculation this was a case of suicide by cop.
El Paso: To prevent an escape
In El Paso on the same day, a 24-year old female officer shot a 21-year old burglary-of-a-vehicle suspect while the man allegedly was trying to escape in a car. According to the AG report, the man had a deadly weapon, but it may have been the vehicle. The El Paso robbery suspect was injured but not killed.
Perhaps Grits will make this a monthly feature. For now, journalists should be aware of this new resource; clearly there are untold stories about shootings by Texas police waiting to be unearthed which heretofore have not been reported.