Top 10 of 2011: Officer Involved Shooting in Downtown Bryan

By: Michael Oder Email
By: Michael Oder Email

Late in the morning on May 6th, shots rang out over Downtown Bryan and reports of an officer involved shooting went out. Initially, Bryan police said that an officer was responding to a report of a suspicious person, Johnnie Harris Jr., and a chase broke out.

"During that foot pursuit, there was a struggle and shots fired. The suspect was struck at least once. An uninvolved third party was also struck - either by ricochet or another round," said Bryan Police Chief Buske the day of the shooting.

The officer who fired was William Cross. Harris and a near-by construction worker were both hit. Both were taken to the hospital. Harris was charged with evading arrest, assault of a public servant and attempting to take a weapon from an officer.

Two months later, just before an internal Bryan PD investigation was to end, Officer Cross resigned from the department.

In October, Bryan Police would release the dash-cam video from that morning in May. In it, you see the struggle between Officer Cross and Johnnie Harris. You can also hear what Officer Cross says to Harris.

The video shows Harris running from Cross.

In a rear-view of the same video, you can see two women get out of a car. That's Harris' mother and grandmother.

As Harris runs back toward the car, you see officer Cross draw his weapon and fire.

Bryan Police say that Harris reached for the officer's weapon.
But looking at the dash-cam video, you just can't tell what happens.

"Well the general rule is an officer shouldn't draw his or her weapon unless he or she is prepared to use it," says Sam Houston State Law Enforcement Professor Phillip Lyons.

"I think the video simply raises more than it answers. I certainly saw nothing in the video that would strike me as clearly inappropriate. The few things I saw that I can make a judgment about, based on my observations alone, it seemed to me that the officer was doing the right things. He was approaching the man in the right way, and once the shooting took place had the presence of mind to call for immediate medical assistance to attend to his injuries," says Lyons.

So we showed this video to former Brazos County Prosecutor Shane Phelps. The video clearly startles him.

"I mean, it's troubling," says Phelps,"because you've got, what? 7 shots fired?"

"But based on just that video, I certainly as a prosecutor would not feel comfortable saying somebody has done something wrong without, as I would think the grand jury would do, talking to the police officers, talking to the crime scene folks, talking to medical commercial to find out if there were wounds, I know there were, where did those wounds occur," says Phelps.

"I mean there are so many things, there's the medical aspect of it, the crime scene investigation of it, testimony from officers, whether policies were followed, you've got video evidence here everything has to come together"

In fact a Brazos County Grand Jury did hear this case.

Cross was no billed.

Even though Officer Cross wasn't indicted and resigned from the Bryan Police Department does not mean this case is closed. At any point, the District Attorney's office can present the case or a new Grand Jury can ask to hear the case or witnesses again.

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