Dec 23 4:47 PM

Grand jury clears Houston officer in shooting of unarmed black man

Jordan Baker was 26 when he was shot to death by an off-duty Houston Police officer.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one. Or something like this one.

A Harris County, Texas, grand jury declined Tuesday to indict police officer Juventino Castro in the shooting death of 26-year-old African-American Jordan Baker.

Baker, a community college student and father of a then-7-year-old boy, was reportedly riding his bike through the parking lot of a shopping mall in January when he was stopped by Castro, an off-duty Houston policeman moonlighting as extra security at the mall because shops in the area had experienced a string of hold-ups.

According to police accounts, Jordan, who was wearing a black, hooded sweatshirt, was spotted looking into store windows. Castro, who was the only witness, said that his attempt to ask Jordan for identification led to a brief struggle and then a foot chase. (Initial accounts even had Jordan on the ground, with Castro attempting to cuff him, when Jordan got up and ran.) The chase ended in an alley where Castro says Jordan stopped, then charged the officer.

Castro fired one shot, killing Jordan.

At the time, the Houston Police Department said Jordan was stopped because he matched the description of the robbery suspect: a black man wearing a hoodie. Police initially even told reporters the man shot was the one responsible for the armed robberies.

Apparently not.

Jordan’s mother, Janet Baker, said her son was a devoted student and father who was doing “everything right.” She accused the off-duty HPD officer of profiling Jordan.

Even though Castro shot Jordan while off duty, he was still placed on the standard 3-day administrative leave after the incident. He was also apparently afforded the same benefit of the doubt accorded on-duty officers, both in Houston and across most of the U.S.

Castro, who was not injured in the reported scuffle with Jordan, was found by Houston Police to have followed agency policy ... even though, again, he was off duty when the shooting occurred.

Harris County has not indicted any Houston Police officers on any criminal charges in any shooting since 2004, according to the Houston Chronicle. "Harris County grand juries have cleared HPD officers in shootings 288 consecutive times."

This is hardly unique to Houston, however. As has become clear since the shooting of unarmed African-American teen Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Mo., this summer, the vast majority U.S. police shootings do not result in any legal action against the offending officers.

Chicago, for instance, hasn’t indicted an officer in a shooting since 2007. Dallas reviewed 81 shootings involving 175 police officers between 2008 and 2012, and indicted only one.

More than a quarter of the 121 civilians shot by HPD officials between 2008 and 2012 were unarmed, according to analysis by the Chronicle.

The paper does not say how many, if any, of those shootings were by off-duty officers.

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