Apr 22, 2024 - News

Houston officer back on duty after 4th deadly shooting incident

Houston police officer Devin Inocencio

Houston Police Department officer Devin Inocencio, 27, captured on bodycam footage after a shooting March 11. Photo: Courtesy of the Houston Police Department

A Houston police officer is back on active duty after being involved in a fatal shooting last month, the fourth time in his six-year career that he's been investigated for using deadly force.

Why it matters: Even as officer Devin Inocencio, 27, faces criminal and internal affairs investigations into the latest deadly shooting, Houston Police Department officials have allowed him back on the streets, a police spokesperson confirmed to Axios.

  • Inocencio is also facing a civil rights lawsuit over a separate shooting.

Driving the news: On March 11 in Oak Ridge North in Montgomery County, Inocencio and five other law enforcement officers opened fire on 44-year-old Roosevelt Overton Jr. as he fled from police. Overton was pronounced dead on the scene.

  • Houston Police Chief Troy Finner said officers "feared for their lives" while chasing Overton, who they say was armed with a gun.

The officers who shot at Overton are Inocencio, HPD Sgt. Jason Campbell, officer Adan Lopez, officer Julio Luna, Department of Public Safety special agent Jeremy McGilbery, and a Harris County Sheriff's Office deputy.

  • Campbell, Lopez and Luna also returned to active duty, as did McGilbery, a DPS spokesperson confirmed.
  • The Harris County Sheriff's Office did not respond to multiple requests for the deputy's identity and the status of its internal investigation.

What they're saying: "They are on active duty, but yes, the investigation is continuing," HPD spokesperson Jodi Silva tells Axios. "They're not placed on [administrative duty] as a punishment but rather it gives them time to finish their critical incident protocol, which is seeing a therapist, meeting with their attorneys, stuff like that."

  • "Should the [Internal Affairs investigation] find something different or find something at the offset [that] seems off, then yes, we would definitely keep them on longer."

The big picture: Inocencio joined the force in 2018 and is a member of the North Belt Division's Crime Suppression Team, a special squad intended to proactively tackle crime along the Beltway 8 corridor in north Houston.

Catch up quick: In February 2022, Inocencio and three other officers on the team, including officer Shaun Houlihan, exchanged gunfire with 27-year-old Charion Lockett as he sat in his car outside his north Houston home, according to court documents. Lockett was killed in the shooting.

In the Lockett shooting, Houston police released bodycam footage a week later — although they later removed the video from YouTube — that family members say shows that officers didn't announce themselves before rushing toward Lockett's car with their guns drawn.

  • Lockett, an aspiring law student who held two degrees and had no criminal history, was facing a charge of aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon.
  • Family members in their lawsuit denied Lockett's involvement in the robbery and said that the person who accused him was a former high school acquaintance who had "animosity towards him."

As officers approached, a gun battle erupted between police and Lockett, who family members say was a concealed carry license holder.

Grand jurors declined to criminally indict any of the four officers in Lockett's death. They are all facing a federal civil rights lawsuit filed by Lockett's family members.

  • Inocencio and the three other officers claimed they had qualified immunity, a legal shield that protects individual police officers accused of violating someone's rights.
  • But an appeals court in February rejected their argument and ruled that the case could move forward.

The latest: Inocencio and other members of a multi-agency squad were tracking Overton, who had been suspected in robberies across Fort Bend, Harris and Montgomery counties, according to the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office.

  • Police said as officers were monitoring Overton, he robbed a liquor store in an Oak Ridge North strip center around 8:10pm.

Surveillance and bodycam footage released by Houston police show that once Overton walked out of the liquor store to his car, police surrounded his vehicle.

At the same time, Houlihan was down the street from the business in a white police SUV with Inocencio in the passenger seat, video shows.

  • Houlihan drove into the parking lot as officers surrounded Overton's parked car, and Inocencio got out to assist the other officers, video shows.
  • As Inocencio approached the scene, Overton began running, video shows. Police say he was armed with a pistol.

Overton ran behind the business and into a drainage ditch, police said.

  • Inocencio and several other officers ran after Overton while Houlihan drove the police SUV into an alley that runs alongside the ditch, video shows.
  • Officers shouted "drop it" as Overton attempted to climb up the other side of the ditch before Inocencio and five other officers began to shoot, video shows.
A still from bodycam footage showing the moment when Houston Police Department Officer Devin Inocencio opened fire
A still from Houston Police Department officer Devin Inocencio's bodycam on the night of the shooting. Roosevelt Overton Jr., 44, was attempting to climb up the side of a ditch when six officers, including Inocencio, opened fire. Photo: Courtesy of the Houston Police Department

Yes, but: Houlihan, who was nearest to Overton according to his bodycam video, did not shoot, Houston police said.

Because the shooting happened in Montgomery County, the sheriff's office there is handling the criminal investigation into the officers' actions.

  • That case remains open, according to Lt. Scott Spencer of the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office.

The intrigue: Police did not allege that Overton pointed a gun at officers.

  • Bodycam video shows Overton's back was turned as officers opened fire, and he did not appear to be pointing a gun at anyone.
  • During a press conference the night of the shooting, Montgomery County District Attorney Brett Ligon said Overton at one point "brandishes" the gun but did not elaborate.

Ligon said on the night of the shooting that the case was "very simple" and that "the investigation is pretty much done at this point."

  • "Let's not make this into something that it's not," Ligon said. "I will still present it to a grand jury here in Montgomery County. That is very clear. The suspect was given several opportunities to stop."

What's next: Axios requested both Inocencio and Houlihan's city employee personnel files but has yet to receive them.

Of note: Reached by phone Monday, Inocencio referred Axios to the Houston Police Officers' Union for comment.

  • A union representative did not immediately respond to a phone call or text.
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