Screenshot of dashcam footage via Harris County Sheriff’s Office
A Texas police department has released footage of an officer-involved shooting that took place on Halloween, which claimed the life of a 17-year-old teen.
According to reporting from Julian Gill of the Houston Chronicle, on Oct. 31, members of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office in Houston, Texas attempted to pull over 17-year-old Jose Luis Centeno, Jr. after he failed to stop for a school bus unloading students.
Dashcam footage shows officers pursuing Centeno through a gas station, past other school buses preparing to pick up or drop off students, and down narrow two-lane roads before Centeno hits a major roadway. While trying to do an illegal u-turn across three lanes of traffic to evade law enforcement, Centeno drives his car into a ditch, where law enforcement successfully boxes him in. The officers then exit their vehicles with weapons drawn.
Video from the first angle doesn’t appear to show the reason for the shooting, as Centeno and his car are not in view. As officers approach Centeno, the camera picks up their muffled commands before they open fire.
However, a second camera angle from another officer’s dashcam shows that as officers walk toward Centeno, who’s still sitting in the driver’s seat, he refuses to comply with their commands and begins to reach for something down by his legs, out of the officers’ view. What Centeno was reaching for turned out to be a replica pellet gun.
In a matter of seconds, the video shows Centeno pull out a pellet gun, point it at officers, and fire a shot. Not knowing what weapon Centeno was holding, officers opened fire immediately, killing the teen. The footage is also slowed down to give the public a better view of what Centeno had, and it shows Centeno did fire at officers.
The Houston Chronicle explains that officers didn’t know until they tried to get Centeno out of the car that the weapon he had was a pellet gun.
“Police said they learned after the incident that he was holding a replica pellet gun, according to a news release,” Gill writes. Later adding, “Deputies rushed to the car and pulled the teenager out of the driver’s seat to see if he was still alive, but he had already died, HCSO Assistant Chief Tim Navarre said at the time of the incident.”
Dashcam footage is critical in situations like this, as officers need to be exonerated or charged based on the evidence. Thankfully, the second police car was able to get into position to show what really happened that day.
If another officer had not been on the scene, it might be impossible for law enforcement to describe what occurred.
Cameras, whether they are body cameras or dashcams, are continuing to play a major role in the investigations of police-involved shootings. Police departments across the country continue to implement them along with new camera technology, as one small police department in northern Arizona is putting cameras on their officers’ firearms.
Watch the dashcam footage released by the Harris County Sheriff’s Office below.