A Harris County grand jury has cited ‘lack of evidence’ and cleared a Houston police officer in the fatal January shooting of an unarmed African American man.
Officer Juventino Castro spotted 26-year-old Jordan Baker outside of a shopping center last January in the 5700 block of West Little York near Antoine.
Castro, who was in uniform and had been on the force for 10 years, was working an extra security job at the location because the strip mall’s businesses had experienced a recent string of robberies, according to the Houston Police Department.
Castro’s attempt to stop Baker in the parking lot led to a brief struggle and foot chase, police say.
Castro claims Baker then charged towards him while reaching into his waist band. Castro fired once, striking and killing Baker, who was unarmed.
Castro was placed on standard three-day administrative duty immediately following the shooting.
Mother of the deceased, Janet Baker, maintains that Castro profiled her son – who was wearing a black hoodie – as a criminal.
“The officer admits that he profiled Jordan Baker,” says Deric Muhammad, a representative for the Baker family. “He said he looked like one of the suspects that had been described, that had committed a recent string of robberies. He was not one of those suspects, but he was profiled. This is how this incident and the encounter started in the first place.”
“I want to express my deepest sympathies to Janet Baker and the entire Baker family,” said Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson in a statement. “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. It does not constitute an endorsement of the officer’s actions.”
In order for an indictment to occur, at least nine of the 12 grand jurors must find there is probable cause. Anderson said that the panel’s decision shows there was not enough evidence to proceed.
Police officers in Harris County are rarely indicted. In fact, according to Houston police watchdog group, Civiliansdown.com, since 2005, 95 people have been killed by Houston police officers and 130 have been shot and wounded. None of the officers involved were ever indicted.