HOUSTON – A grand jury has declined to indict a Texas police officer in the death of a Black man who was shot as he ran away after being confronted, authorities said Tuesday.
Joshua Feast, 22, died Dec. 9 after he was shot by La Marque police Officer Jose Santos. La Marque police had said Feast was a person of interest in several recent shootings in the city.
Civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who is representing Feast’s family, alleged Santos had shot a defenseless man who had posed no threat to the officer. An independent autopsy done at the request of Feast’s family concluded he died from a single gunshot wound to the back.
Galveston County District Attorney Jack Roady said he believed the shooting was justified.
“I’m confident the investigation was exhaustive, unbiased and fundamentally fair,” Roady said during a news conference Tuesday. “I’m equally confident that the result of this investigation and the grand jury’s decision is just.”
Crump did not immediately return an email seeking comment Tuesday.
La Marque police had released Santos’ body camera footage a few weeks after the shooting. It did not show Feast holding a gun, though Santos could be heard after the shooting saying over police radio that Feast had dropped one on the ground.
The body camera footage was sent to the Texas Department of Public Safety and during a news conference on Tuesday, the enhanced and slowed down video was presented “so that everyone can see what we saw during our investigation,” said Galveston County Sheriff’s Lt. Mel Villarreal.
Roady said after Feast was confronted by the officer, he pulled a gun from his waistband.
The video showed Feast had a handgun and “as he’s running, he’s pointing it back at Officer Santos,” Villarreal said. He said the video showed Feast dropping the gun before he collapsed at a nearby house.
Authorities said a second gun was found on Feast’s body when he was being treated in an ambulance.
Feast’s shooting prompted protests in La Marque, which is located about 40 miles (64.37 kilometers) southeast of Houston.
Roady called Feast’s death “a tragedy” that “affected all of us strongly in Galveston County.”
Roady, who’s been district attorney since 2011, said he had previously not held a news conference after a police shooting, but this case was treated differently “to consider the times that we live in right now.”
Cases in which police officers have shot or killed minorities, particularly Blacks, have been heavily scrutinized in the wake of the death of George Floyd at the hands of a convicted ex-Minneapolis police officer.
“We wanted to make sure that at the end of this investigation, we provided the public with as much information as we could by law... so that the public can have confidence that the investigation was thorough and just and that the right result happened,” Roady said.
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