A grand jury in Texas declined today to indict a police officer involved in a fatal shooting of an unarmed black man in a shopping mall potentially giving new grist to the movement that has spawned protests nationwide about the role that race plays in policing and how justice is applied to minorities.
After hearing testimony for months, the Houston grand jury decided that the officer, Juventino Castro, had done nothing that warranted criminal prosecution when he shot and killed the man, Jordan Baker, 26, after a confrontation last January at the shopping centre.
At the time of the incident, Mr Castro was off duty from his precinct and working a shift at the shops as a private security guard. He was wearing his police uniform, however. He had confronted Mr Baker on suspicion of being a burglar with intent to shoplift. The grand jury heard that there was a struggle and that afterwards Mr Baker had charged Mr Castro who then fired a single shot that killed him.
In recent weeks, the US has been shaken by a wave of demonstrations that first sprang from a decision from a grand jury in Missouri not to indict the officer who shot and killed Michael Brown in Ferguson in August. The movement grew significantly when earlier this month another grand jury similarly absolved a New York police officer who had held a black man in a choke hold who subsequently died.
The politics that surround the issue were complicated at the weekend, however, when a lone gunman assassinated two police officers in Brooklyn, an Asian and a Hispanic, after posting messages on social media saying he was motivated by the grand jury decisions in New York and Missouri. The deaths of the police officer stunned the city and led Mayor Bill de Blasio to plead for a pause in the protests.
That appeal has not been heeded and the decision by the grand jury in Texas is likely to embolden those behind the protests to return to the streets with yet more energy. Earlier this week a grand jury in Wisconsin also decided against indicting another white officer in yet one more killing of a black man.
In Houston the mother of Mr Baker said her son, who was wearing a hoodie at the time he was shot, had been profiled as a criminal by Mr Castro simply because of his race and how he looked.
Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson offered sympathy to the Baker family. "I know they are disappointed, but the grand jury's decision means they found that there was no probable cause to believe a crime was committed," he said, according to the Houston Chronicle.Reuse content