Body camera footage shows how a police welfare check on a woman reported passed out went horribly wrong.
“Hello? Are you okay? Is that your dog?” the unidentified Arlington, Tex., officer — who police say was cleared for field work just last month — asks as he walks down a sidewalk toward the woman lying near a shopping center. “Get back!” he shouts as an unleashed dog runs toward him, barking. Two seconds later, he fires.
“Oh my God,” the woman screams. “The police shot me.”
“Ma’am, get a hold of your dog,” the officer can be heard saying as he approaches 30-year-old Margarita Victoria Brooks — the daughter of a local fire captain and homeless. Friends say she often rested under a tree outside the shopping complex with her boyfriend.
Brooks would be declared dead of a gunshot wound to the chest less than an hour later in an Arlington emergency room, according to the Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s Office, which ruled the death a homicide.
“Everything about this call is an absolute tragedy,” Arlington Police Chief Will Johnson told reporters Friday, as the shooting joined a host of incidents raising questions about police use of force. “Our hearts are broken for the Brooks family and the police officer involved.”
Police, city fire personnel and emergency medical services responded around 5:20 p.m. Thursday to a caller who said Brooks was unconscious on the grass close to Arlington’s Seville Commons shopping center, according to a statement from the police department. Police eventually found Brooks by a nearby fence and wooded area.
Those who knew Brooks say the woman and her boyfriend were regulars at the shopping site — along with Brooks’s brown dog. Police think the dog the officer shot toward belonged to Brooks.
The officer retreated from the dog while drawing his weapon and firing multiple times at the animal, according to police. They think he fired three shots.
Preliminary information indicates the woman was struck by the officer’s fire, police said. Brooks was taken to Medical City Arlington hospital and pronounced dead about 6 p.m.
Police have not said exactly when authorities called for medical help and did not immediately respond to an inquiry from The Washington Post on Saturday.
Johnson said at Friday’s news conference that the officer involved was a 25-year-old who graduated from the police academy in February and had received eight hours of training for dog encounters, in addition to mandatory firearms training. He was assigned to patrol the North District.
The officer is on administrative leave, as is typical after officer-involved shootings.
On Friday, the department released the officer’s body camera footage from the incident, which will be used in ongoing investigations. Authorities are conducting a criminal inquiry and an investigation into whether the officer breached department policies, Johnson said. Findings from the criminal investigation will go to the Tarrant County district attorney’s office.
“Clearly this is not the outcome that the officer wanted, nor is it the outcome that the department wanted,” Johnson said. “We know as police officers that we are accountable for our actions, and that our actions are subject to thorough review and analysis.”
Other fatal incidents in Texas have drawn scrutiny of officers’ actions. A video released this week after a years-long legal dispute has renewed outrage over the 2016 death of Tony Timpa in Dallas officers’ custody: It shows officers laughing and joking over a handcuffed and pinned-down man who repeatedly asks for help.
The Arlington Fire Department has confirmed to local media that Brooks is the daughter of one of their fire captains, though officials have not named the father. Johnson said the body camera footage was shown to the woman’s family.
“On behalf of the entire department, I offer my sincerest condolences,” Johnson said. “And I ask for prayers, not only for the family but for the officer that was involved in this call.”
The dog, a 40-pound Labrador retriever mix, is alive but wounded and at an animal shelter, according to police. They think the animal was grazed by a bullet.
By Friday, what looked like memorials to Brooks had appeared near where she was shot. Bouquets of white and yellow flowers and a potted plant had been placed in the grass outside the Arlington shopping center, a reporter tweeted.
“She was a very loving person to the dog,” Larry Hamilton, who says he knew Brooks and often looked for work outside the shopping complex, told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “Always made sure the dog was fed before she (was) . . . She was a good-hearted person.”