The family of a Black man fatally shot by a sheriff’s officer in Houston filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the sergeant, Garrett Hardin, and the Harris County Sheriff’s Office on Wednesday, alleging that Roderick Brooks’ death was avoidable in part because Hardin had critically injured a man one week before shooting Brooks but had not faced any disciplinary action.
Hardin shot Brooks, 47, on July 8 while Brooks was pinned on the ground. Hardin and other law officers had chased Brooks for allegedly stealing detergent from a discount store.
The department released body camera footage of the incident weeks later, showing Hardin shocking Brooks with his stun gun, pinning him down on the ground and then shooting him in the neck at close range.
At one point before the shooting, Brooks grabbed Hardin’s stun gun when it fell but never pointed it in his direction nor gained real control of the device. He was pinned on his stomach at the time.
“I will fucking shoot you,” Hardin said they struggled over the stun gun, according to bodycam footage.
“Harris County is harboring a criminal,” the family’s attorney, Sadiyah Evangelista Karriem, told HuffPost. “We will use every tool of justice that we can to get justice for Roderick Brooks.”
The lawsuit asserts that one week before killing Brooks, Hardin approached a man who was under the influence and used his stun gun on him, causing the man to fall over an overpass and land 35 feet below. The man was “critically injured,” according to the suit.
Houston ABC affiliate KTRK-TV reported on the incident following Brooks’ killing.
Sheriff’s office policy says that deputies are not supposed to use electric shock devices on people who are on an “elevated or unstable surface,” the lawsuit says.
Hardin was never placed on administrative leave in the case, and one week later he shot Brooks.
A HuffPost report from August reported that the Harris County Sheriff’s Office has suspended Hardin without pay on eight occasions since 2004 for infractions that include crashing his patrol car into another vehicle, giving false statements to his supervisors and making lewd and sexual remarks to officers working under him.
Hardin has been placed on paid administrative leave while the department investigates the Brooks shooting.
The Harris County Sheriff’s Office did not respond to a request for comment. The district attorney’s office said the case has been handed over to a grand jury.
“A Civil Rights Division prosecutor goes to the scene of every officer-involved shooting. Prosecutors thoroughly and independently review all the evidence in each shooting and present all of that evidence to grand jurors who determine whether an indictment is warranted,” a statement from the district attorney’s office said.
“We do this to ensure that a grand jury, which is comprised of members of the community, determines whether there is sufficient evidence for a criminal charge.”