Jordan Baker, 26, was unarmed when he was killed by officer Juventino Castro in an alley behind a strip mall on Jan. 16, 2014.
Baker’s family and supporters were disappointed by the clearing of the officer, much like the disappointment that followed the announcements of the grand jury decisions in Ferguson, Mo., and New York City.
In case after case, grand juries refuse to indict officers when they claim they acted in self-defense.
“When self-defense is raised, grand juries and trial juries must consider the facts and circumstances from the officer’s standpoint,” Julian Ramirez, the chief prosecutor in the district attorney’s civil rights division, told the Houston Chronicle. “He does not have to wait until a weapon is produced and actually used… So long as his actions are objectively reasonable, he can act in response to an apparent danger just as he could against a real or confirmed danger.”
It becomes increasingly difficult to indict if the officer is the only witness. According to Ramirez, there were no other witnesses in the alley where Baker was killed.
Castro, a 10-year veteran who was off duty and working as a security guard at the mall, saw Baker riding on his bicycle and looking into the windows of stores while wearing a black hooded sweatshirt, ABC13 reported. Castro then pursued Baker into an alley behind the mall.
The attire is similar to what Trayvon Martin was wearing when he was racially profiled and fatally shot by George Zimmerman in 2012.
The strip mall where Baker was shot had been hit by several robberies before the shooting. Initial reports after the shooting claimed that the man shot, Baker, was responsible for the robberies.
“He’s not the way they portrayed him,” Baker’s mother, Janet Baker, told ABC13. “He’s a father. He’s [a] grandson. He’s a son. And he was just taken away.”
Baker was also a student at the Houston Community College.
“He did everything right,” his mother said. “He’s a college student, he was working part time. He does everything for his son.”
Castro claimed that he shot Baker because he feared for his life when Baker charged at him in the alley.
According to police reports, when the officer asked Baker for ID, he said there was a scuffle and a foot chase, with the officer finally cornering Baker in the alley. The officer told investigators Baker charged toward him, and that’s when he fired his gun.
Immediately after the shooting, Castro was placed on a three-day administrative leave. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston, sent a letter to US Attorney General Eric Holder to request an investigation by the Justice Department.
Sadiyah Evangelista, a Houston lawyer, said she would be filing a federal complaint to the DOJ on behalf of Baker’s family.