The moments leading up to the fatal shooting of an unarmed Black man were captured on video by a witness to the tragedy.
Danny Ray Thomas, 34, was shot and killed by a sheriff’s deputy in Houston, Texas, with his pants around his ankles.
According to a press release from the Houston Police Department, the incident began when Thomas was behaving erratically in an intersection, “talking to himself and hitting vehicles as they passed by.” Thomas and the driver of one of the vehicles reportedly became involved in a physical altercation. The deputy approached the scene to break up the fight, and Thomas began walking toward him, authorities stated. The officer commanded Thomas to stop, but he continued walking. “Fearing for his safety,” the deputy fired one fatal round into Thomas’ chest.
Video shared with the Houston Chronicle shows Thomas approaching the deputy, who has not been publicly identified, as the officer tells him to stop.
“He about to get Tased,” the woman who recorded the video says, laughing initially. Cars drive past the video frame several times, blocking parts of the recording. During one such incident, the woman starts to say, “Move out the way” when a single gunshot is heard, followed immediately by screams and gasps.
The woman recording is silent for a moment then says, “He shot that man?”
“Why he shot that man?” she asks. A man’s voice is also heard on the recording.
“Yeah, he shot that man,” the man answers. For a brief moment, Thomas’ body is seen laying in the street.
“Why he shot him?” she repeatedly questions.
The woman’s companion yells an inaudible response.
“Okay, he should’ve got Tased! He shouldn’t have shot that man in no street!” the woman says.
“The first thing — you’re not supposed to reach for your gun; you’re supposed to reach for your Taser,” she says at the end of the video.
Thomas was pronounced dead at the hospital.
Warning: Contains graphic content
#BREAKING Video obtained by the @HoustonChron shows the death of Danny Ray Thomas after he was shot by a Harris County deputy Thursday. No weapon was recovered at the scene, officials said. #hounews #breakingnews
— Robert Downen (@RobDownenChron) March 24, 2018
The Houston Police Department also released dash cam footage of the incident. But the shooting itself was not visible on this video, either.
The sheriff’s office claimed that Thomas was believed to have had an object in his hand, the Chronicle reported. But no weapons were recovered at the scene — as in the case of Stephon Clark, whose supposed “weapon” was in fact a cell phone. What object Thomas may have been holding has not been identified.
Thomas suffered from depression, his sister, Marketa Thomas, told the Chronicle. Marketa Thomas also struggles with the illness, and her brother had been a vital source of support for her.
Thomas’ sister echoed the opinion of the woman who recorded her brother’s shooting.
“You could have Tased him,” she told NBC affiliate KPRC 2. “You could have clearly Tased him. He wasn’t trying to hit you. He wasn’t trying to shoot you. He wasn’t trying to do anything.”
Thomas’ family had been struggling with tragedy prior to his death. In 2016 Thomas’ wife, Sheborah Thomas, was charged with murder after drowning their two children, five-year-old Kayana Thomas and seven-year-old O’Raylan Thomas, in the bathtub. Sheborah Thomas is currently facing capital murder charges.
“Whenever he got into that mind frame, thinking about his wife and his kids, he just felt like he was alone,” Markeeta Thomas added.
“That’s my flesh and my blood,” she told the Chronicle. “We’ve been through everything together. He had my back through everything. And he promised me he wouldn’t leave me, and he didn’t leave me. Somebody took him from me.”
The police department did not say in its release whether the officer is on duty but did say the department’s Homicide Division Special Investigations Unit and the Harris County District Attorney’s Office will both be investigating.