police shootings

Three Police Officers Are Wounded in Texas Shoot Out

By Peek & Toland on November 27, 2017

Crimes against police officers have made headlines in recent months and led to new legislation. Recently, three police officers were wounded in a shootout at a Laredo convenience store.

Media reports stated a man who was wanted for questioning in a homicide was killed and three police officers were hospitalized following the shootout in Laredo, Texas.

Police hunted Antonio Gerardo Rodriguez in June after his 50-year-old girlfriend was found dead inside her apartment.

Detective Joe Baeza, a spokesman for Laredo police, said officers searched all day for 55-year-old Antonio Geraldo Rodriguez.

Police officers wounded in Laredo

Three police officers are wounded in Laredo

They spotted a vehicle matching the description of one driven by Rodriguez outside a convenience store later in the afternoon. When the officers approached the car, Rodriguez opened fire, drawing return fire from the officers.

The attack left one police officer in a critical but stable condition. The other two also suffered serious injuries.

Rodriguez later died at Doctors Hospital of Laredo, according to a report on CNN.

Attacks against police officers are not rare in Texas. In July 2016, five police officers were shot dead by a sniper in Dallas, reported CNN.

Lone shooter Micah Xavier Johnson, 25, of Mesquite, Texas, a military veteran who served in Afghanistan, targeted the officers during a Black Lives Matter protest in the city.

The massacre led Texas to pass legislation that makes all targeted crimes against police officers or other emergency responders hate crimes.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott said he wanted to “create a culture of respect for law enforcement.” He put his weight behind a campaign to educate young Texans on the value law enforcement officers bring to communities.

Under the legislation, the penalties for threatening peace officers or judges will be upped from a misdemeanor to a felony, punishable by 180 days to two years in prison.

The legislation likens the punishment to offenses based on crimes against groups identified by religion, race, disability, ancestry, age, gender or sexual preference under Texas’ existing hate crimes law.

Under the legislation, assaulting or unlawfully restraining a police officer or judge is a second-degree felony, which carries a prison sentence of up to 20 years.

Legislators had crimes like the shooting of Texas District Judge Julie Kocurek in Austin in 2015 in mind when they added judges to the bill at the 11th hour.

If you have been charged with a hate crime in Texas, you should hire experienced defense counsel. Call our Austin criminal defense lawyers at (512) 474-4445.

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Questions over the Death of a Student by Police Officers in Balch Springs

By Peek & Toland on October 2, 2017

Fatal police shootings have made headlines in recent years. The shooting death of a teen by a police officer in Balch Springs caused an outcry in the Texas community.

In May, a police officer shot into a car in Balch Springs, killing 15-year-old Jordan Edwards. The officer, Roy Oliver was later fired. Police said he violated departmental policies, CNN reported.

Edwards, an African American, was a stand-out athlete and honors student.

Balch Springs police chief Jonathan Haber made the decision to fire the officer after reviewing the findings of an internal police investigation. He was given 10 days to appeal the decision.

The officer was later charged with murder, Slate reported.

The death of a student in Balch Springs  caused anger

The death of a student by a police officer caused an outcry

The 37-year-old former officer turned himself in. He was released after he posted bail on a $300,000 bond. Oliver took the life of the teen when he fired a rifle into a car filled with teenagers who were leaving a party. A bullet struck Edwards in the head.

Haber originally said the car was backing up toward his officer. However, body-cam footage later showed the car was heading away from where the police officer was standing.

Haber said he took responsibility for the error. He said the officer’s behavior did not meet the force’s core values.

The Washington Post reported Jordan was the youngest of 339 people shot and killed by police so far in 2017.

Two years ago, The Guardian reported on how deaths of black people at the hands of police in America were soaring. In 2016, Black males between the ages of 15-34 were nine times more likely than other Americans to be killed by law enforcement officers.

The report noted racial disparities lingered in 2016 even though the total number of deaths caused by police officers fell slightly. In total, 1,091 deaths were recorded for 2016, compared with 1,146 in 2015.

Plans to streamline and improve government records related to police deaths were thrown into doubt by the election of Trump, who campaigned on a “law and order” platform.

Last year, we noted how police departments will be forced to list police-related shootings. Now that system may be on the backburner. Chuck Wexler, the executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, says it’s important to have greater accountability. He said:

“This data is so important. We have to capture the whole range of use of force by police, and we have to have a way to identify how we are doing.”

Our Austin criminal defense lawyers have concerns about how police officers arrest people and the use of too much force. If you have been arrested for a crime, please call us at (512) 474-4445.

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Crimes Against Police – Deputy is Shot Dead in Baytown

By Peek & Toland on August 18, 2017

Crimes against police are seldom far from the headlines in Texas after a tragedy last year and a move to make acts of violence against first responders hate crimes.

In April, another police officer lost his life when a Harris County deputy constable was gunned down in Baytown.

Police said Clint Greenwood’s killer later used the same gun to shoot himself dead and had a grudge against the officer.

Greenwood was killed on April 3 when he arrived at work at the Harris County courthouse annex in Baytown. He started work three months earlier as an assistant chief deputy for the Precinct 3 Constable’s Office. The officer worked for decades in the criminal justice system in Harris County.

New law in Texas was passed due to crimes against police

Crimes against police sparked legislation in Texas

Police linked the shooting to William Kenny, reported the Houston Chronicle. Kenny reportedly harbored a grudge against Greenwood and other officials after deputies responded to a call in five years ago. He had a legal permit for concealed carry in Texas and bought a 9mm Taurus in 2014.

He shot himself in the head soon after the killing of the officer. Ballistics tests used to compare the rounds used in the two shootings established a match.

Over the last year, we have seen the killings of police officers in Dallas, San Antonio, and Harris County, prompting moves for Blue Crimes Matter legislation.

Crimes Against Police in Texas

In the wake of the slayings of five police officers by a sniper in Dallas last year during a Black Lives Matter rally, Texas Governor Greg Abbott called for the killing of Texas police officers to become a hate crime.

Legislation filed in Texas this year would make violent offenses that target any emergency responder a hate crime.

Blue Lives Matter legislation has been implemented in Louisiana. However, the use of heavy sentences for less serious crimes against police officers is controversial. In Louisiana, for example, resisting arrest can constitute a hate crime, reported the Washington Post.

In at least 37 states there are enhanced penalties for assaulting a police officer.

If you have been charged with an offense against a police officer or another first responder such as a paramedic or a firefighter, you may be facing a heavy sentence. Call Peek & Toland for a consultation at (512) 474-4445

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Police Shootings Derail Criminal Law Reform

By Peek & Toland on November 11, 2016

Many leading politicians hoped to implement sweeping criminal law reform this year. However, hopes that the criminal justice system could be overhauled have been knocked off course by a summer of shootings involving police officers.

An Associated Press report noted moves were afoot involving senior politicians. Republicans including John Cornyn of Texas and Mike Lee from Utah had reportedly joined forces with Democrats to overturn some federal laws enacted in the 1980s and 1990s. These were primarily laws enacted during a period when the federal government was taking a tough approach to crime.

They wanted to cut out some mandatory sentences for low-level drug offenders as well as giving a greater discretion to judges when sentencing.

The politicians appeared to have reached common ground in a bid to reduce the nation’s prison population.

Back in 1980, there were just 25,000 prisoners housed in federal facilities. Today the figure is more than 200,000.

The AP report said the consensus has been undermined by a pro law and order backlash. It has been a divisive summer with police shootings of African Americans making headlines as well as reprisals against police officers. Police officers were shot dead in Dallas and Baton Rouge.

Criminal law reform was derailed by police shootings

The tension again increased in September when a police officer shot dead Terence Crutcher, an unarmed black man in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

The bipartisan effort in Congress encountered strong opposition from some Republicans who said reform would pose an even greater danger to police. Although Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump didn’t comment on the criminal law reform he has called himself the “law-and-order candidate” and referred in lurid terms to a perceived crisis in America.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was described in the AP article as the man who could break the deadlock.

Meanwhile, House Speaker Paul Ryan supports criminal law reform and is considering bipartisan House to cut mandatory sentences and boost rehabilitation programs. It puts him on the same page as President Barack Obama.

Criminal Law Reform in Texas

Interestingly, Texas has pioneered criminal law reforms that have drastically cut the state’s jail population.

In 2014, The Washington Post reported on how Texas is leading the way in criminal law reform. Texas has a reputation for being tough on crime but conservative legislators considered how they could reform to save the state money.

The reforms included specialized drugs courts, revamped parole, and programs to make it easier for former offenders to reintegrate into society. By not reoffending, it would save Texas money and help keep the prison population down.

The number of inmates in Texas prisons rose dramatically during the 1990s and 2000s. It was a time of a war on drugs and rising crime. The population rose from 50,000 in 1990 to about 173,000 in 2010, s staggering 346 percent rise. By 2013 those reforms had reduced the prison population to 168,000 and it has fallen further since.

Texas still has a long way to go to reduce its prison population but the state could be a template for the rest of the country.

If you have been charged with a crime in Texas there’s a high chance you could end up in jail. Contact our experienced Austin criminal defense attorneys at (512) 474-4445.

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New System Will Force Police Departments to Document Arrest-Related Deaths

By Peek & Toland on October 10, 2016

Police departments will be forced to report arrest-related deaths in the aftermath of a furor over police shootings across the United States.

Federal officials announced a new program for documenting all “arrest-related deaths,” reported The Guardian.

The move follows a summer of discontent and allegations of racism directed against police departments after a series of high-profile killings by officers. Our experienced Austin criminal defense attorneys look closely at any claims that race was a motivating factor in arrests or police shootings.

Feds will keep tabls on arrest-related deaths

There’s a new requirement for police departments to provide the US justice department with quarterly figures about deadly incidents, the Guardian reported. The move signals a tougher approach by federal authorities in holding police departments accountable.

The Guardian is documenting every death caused by officers over the last two years. It described the existing count by the FBI as “discredited.”

Arrest-related deaths made news headlines and were linked to civil disturbances since 2014. That’s when Michael Brown, an unarmed black man, was shot dead by a police officer in Ferguson, MO.

However, even as riots followed the deaths of black men in Ferguson and Baltimore, the federal government shied away from setting up a comprehensive record of killings by police officers. The Guardian reported the federal counting system only recorded half of police killings.

The new system will see almost 20,000 law enforcement agencies receiving a form that requires information on all arrest-related deaths in the past quarter.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics wants to see deaths by firearms, Tasers, and even some vehicle crashes.

The BJS will note deaths that have been reported by the media. There will be space for local police departments to note deaths that they have not yet reported.

Arrest-Related Deaths that Caused Outcry

Two incidents this summer sparked protests across the country.

Alton Sterling was shot dead during a confrontation with two police officers outside a Baton Rouge, La. Cellphone video of the incident was posted online by a community activist, setting off angry protests.

Philando Castile, 32, was shot dead a day later in St. Paul, Minnesota. He was in a car with a woman and a child. A widely-shared Facebook video showed him with a bloody shirt.

In September, the shooting death of Keith Lamont Scott sparked disturbances in Charlotte, North Carolina. A police officer in Tulsa, Oklahoma, was charged with manslaughter over the death of an African American man.

These killings of unarmed African Americans resulted in Black Lives Matter protests across the U.S.

In the days after these incidents, mass shootings of police officers occurred in Dallas and Baton Rouge.

Arrest-related deaths undermine our confidence in law enforcement. At Peek & Toland , we help people who have been improperly arrested or charged with a crime on the flimsiest of evidence. Call us today for a consultation at (512) 474-4445.

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