Two Houston policemen shot and killed an African-American man who they say refused to obey commands to lower his gun in the middle of the night Saturday (July 9), according to local authorities.
The incident happened as Texas and the country are in a state of heightened tension after the killing of five police officers in Dallas at a Black Lives Matter protest.
The two Houston officers were on patrol when they spotted the man, who was standing in the middle of a four-way intersection with a gun pointed towards the sky, said Jodi Silva, a spokesperson for the Houston police department.
The officers got out of their car and asked the man to put down his weapon. Witnesses at the scene were also yelling “Put down the gun! Put down the gun!” she added.
But the man instead lowered it to aim it straight at the officers. Fearful for the lives of bystanders and their own, the officers then shot the man several times, said Silva. The officers and paramedics provided first aid to the man, but he was pronounced dead at the scene, said Silva.
The department has not released his identity, but local media identified him as Alva Braziel.
The string of killings of black men by police around the country has put departments under increasing scrutiny. Houston’s police department has been releasing statistics on incidents in which their officers fire their guns. So far this year, there have been 16 such incidents, during which 10 people were wounded and four were killed.
The latest shooting is being investigated by two separate divisions within the Houston police department, as well as by the district attorney of the county where Houston sits, Harris.
At the same time, police departments are also conscious of the potential for violence against them. After the attack in Dallas, Houston police officers were advised “to be vigilant, to be careful and to have increased awareness of the situations around them,” said Silva. Officers who normally ride alone were offered the option of patrolling in pairs for safety.