A man allegedly armed with a handgun was killed early Saturday in Houston after an encounter with police officers.
According to the Houston Police Department, two officers who were on a routine neighborhood patrol found a man at a four-way intersection in South Houston with a gun pointed toward the sky. The officers left their vehicle and approached the man, telling him to lower the gun. A witness also yelled at him to lower the weapon.
Police say the man then slowly lowered the weapon and pointed it at the officers.
“Since it was a slow, deliberate movement, for their own safety and witnesses’ safety at that point, the officers discharged their weapons more than one time,” said Jodi Silva, a spokeswoman for the Houston police.
By the time paramedics arrived, the man was dead.
The police did not release the man’s name, but a woman who said she was his wife told KTRK-TV, Houston’s ABC affiliate, that he was 38-year-old Alva Braziel.
In video footage of an interview with Braziel’s wife — posted to a Facebook page assembling news about his death — she said they had been married for two and a half years. Asked why she thought he was killed, she broke down in tears.
“This ain’t all right,” said his wife, Nikita. “They really kill him? I thought this was a dream when I got the phone call. It’s real. It’s real. I won’t see him no more.”
In an interview with The Washington Post, Ashton P. Woods, a Black Lives Matter Houston activist, questioned why gunfire was used.
“It’s problematic. What about a taser?” he said. “What about pepper spray?”
— Jake Reiner (@JakeKPRC2) July 9, 2016
The shooting in Houston further raised tensions after a week in which two other black men were shot to death by police in Baton Rouge and Falcon Heights, Minn., and 12 police officers were shot in Dallas, five of them fatally.
The Houston shooting is among more than 500 fatal police shootings so far this year, according to a Post database tracking shootings by on-duty officers. Of those shot and killed by police so far this year, about 24 percent have been black.
Woods, the Black Lives Matter Houston activist, lives in the neighborhood where the shooting occurred. He said the police actions early Saturday were indicative of a pattern in which officers are “hypervigilant” when a black person has a weapon.
“That’s what’s wrong with the policing here,” Woods said. “They don’t know how to talk to us. We don’t have community policing here.”
One bystander, Eric Puckett, told KTRK that Houston police in the area often target black residents. “It’s like we got a target on our back even if we innocent. It hurts. You don’t even want to walk outside your house no more.”
A friend, Brian Harris, said Braziel could have been more compliant with the police but added that authorities need to change how they deal with potentially violent people.
“I’m just hoping something is done about the way police are handling stuff,” Harris said in an interview. “I feel they could have handled the situation differently.”
Harris said his friend had been experiencing personal turmoil and wondered whether he had behaved recklessly out of a self-destructive impulse.
“He’s been going through some things due to his grandfather’s death,” he said. “Why would he put himself in that position, I really couldn’t tell you. Brandishing of the weapon, that’s not typical. I know for a fact something was wrong.”
Both officers were wearing body cameras, and a nearby convenience store also had surveillance video, said Silva, the police spokesperson. Those videos may or may not be released pending investigations.
The Houston Police Department’s homicide and internal affairs divisions will be investigating the incident, as will the Harris County district attorney’s office.
Silva said the two officers involved in the incident are Louis Lopez, who has been with the department for 13 years, and Edward Macias, who has served for 10 years. Both are Hispanic.
The national Black Lives Matter community is demanding that the videos be released to show whether Braziel pointed the gun at the officers.
Until that can be determined, activists nationwide are mourning Braziel’s death. His Facebook page shows he was a father and loving partner. He enjoyed going out with friends, going to church and tending to horses.
Harris said Braziel, whom he had known for 35 years, was “outgoing and very boisterous.” He noted that Braziel was grieving the death of his grandfather and was above all a family man.
“He’s a good father; he was a good father,” Harris said. “He was a good provider. That much I can tell you.”
This post has been updated.