HOUSTON—A Houston police officer has been placed on desk duty after shooting and killing a mentally ill double-amputee at a group home Saturday in southeast Houston.
Officer Matthew Marin, a five-year-veteran, killed Brian Claunch around 1:30 a.m. at a home in the 4300 block of Polk Street.
A frantic caretaker called for help when Claunch apparently got irate over a pack of cigarettes and a soda.
Randal Kingery had just finished partying across the street from the home when he saw the police pull up.
“Two minutes after the cops enter the house, there was a single gunshot,” Kingery said. “We immediately thought it was a suicide.”
The group home, managed by Juan Garcia, houses men battling medical disabilities.
Garcia said Claunch, a wheelchair-bound resident with only one arm and one leg, became irate when his caretaker refused to buy the items he wanted.
“He got agitated in the middle of the night, he started to get a little bit violent,” Garcia said. “The person who stayed with him called police, called 911.”
Garcia said Claunch had been living there for about a year and a half. He apparently suffered from both bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
Garcia was not surprised by the outburst.
“He had a temper, he could fly off once in a while,” Garcia said.
According to police, Claunch had an object in his hand and ignored the officers’ repeated commands to drop it. When he cornered one of the officers in his wheelchair, Marin shot and killed Claunch.
It was then they discovered the object Claunch had been wielding was just a silver pen.
Kingery said the police should have known what they were dealing with. He said he saw them there a month ago, and that it was no secret the residents had special needs.
“For the cops to go in there with guns drawn, it’s ridiculous,” he said.
Garcia said he does not know if the lights were on or off when they entered; something that may have affected their decision to shoot.
The head of a local police violence group questions whether Marin was justified in shooting Claunch. Civilians Down co-founder Arlene Kelly told the Chronicle that she wonders how dangerous a suspect is if he only has one arm and one good leg.
The Houston Chronicle reports that Marin shot someone else in the line of duty three years ago.
Marin was also one of three HPD officers accused of beating Marvin Driver, father of NFL player Donald Driver, in 2009. All three were later cleared and they filed a slander lawsuit against activist Quanell X.
Marin will work three days of desk duty, which is standard procedure in an officer-involved shooting.