Apr 25, 2024 - News

Houston-area sheriff's office withholds footage of deadly shooting

Photo illustration of a Dallas Police cruiser with lines radiating from it.

Photo illustration: Axios Visuals; Photo: Timothy A. Clary/Getty Images

The suburban sheriff's office investigating last month's deadly police shooting by several Houston-area officers has declined to release bodycam footage.

Why it matters: The denial highlights inconsistent policies surrounding the release of police bodycam footage across the Houston region.

Catch up quick: Six officers from three agencies opened fire on Roosevelt Overton Jr., 44, as he fled after an armed robbery in the Montgomery County city of Oak Ridge North on March 11.

  • In the hours before the shooting, officers from several Houston-area law enforcement agencies had been secretly trailing Overton, whom police suspected of several robberies in Fort Bend, Harris and Montgomery counties.
  • Because the shooting happened in Montgomery County, the sheriff's office there is handling the criminal investigation into the officers' actions while each officer's agency conducts an internal investigation.

The intrigue: HPD on April 9 released surveillance and bodycam video of the shooting that includes footage from the four Houston police officers who opened fire: Sgt. Jason Campbell, officer Devin Inocencio, officer Adan Lopez and officer Julio Luna.

  • The footage shows Overton, whom police said had a gun, was attempting to run up a drainage ditch when officers began to shoot.
  • The footage released by HPD didn't clearly show Overton was carrying a gun, although one was visible on the ground next to him after he was shot.
  • This is the fourth fatal shooting incident Inocencio has been involved in during his career.

The two other law enforcement officers who opened fire are Texas Department of Public Safety special agent Jeremy McGilbery and Harris County Sheriff's Office deputy investigator Jose Sanchez.

Axios requested the bodycam footage of the two other law enforcement officers who opened fire from the Harris County Sheriff's Office, DPS and the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office.

  • A Harris County Sheriff's Office spokesperson deferred the decision to release the footage to the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office. A DPS spokesperson declined to release its footage, citing the ongoing investigation.
  • Montgomery County Sheriff's Office spokesperson Lt. Scott Spencer tells Axios that "we won't be releasing anything" until the investigation is finished and sent to the Montgomery County District Attorney's Office for a grand jury review.
  • Spencer would not say whether the sheriff's office would voluntarily release the footage after the investigation is complete.

Of note: After the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office declined to release the footage, Axios filed an open records request with the sheriff's office for all bodycam videos related to the shooting.

  • The office has until May 8 to respond to the request.

What they're saying: Houston Police Officers' Union president Douglas Griffith defended the HPD officers who opened fire, saying they "obviously saw a threat and acted within the law."

  • "Had the individual simply complied with officers he would have been taken into custody without incident," Griffith said.

Between the lines: Montgomery County District Attorney Brett Ligon said the night of the shooting that "the investigation is pretty much done at this point."

  • "Something very simple happened," Ligon said at a press conference after the shooting. "A bad guy came into our community and robbed one of our businesses."

What's next: A Harris County Sheriff's Office spokesperson says the office is finalizing a policy to voluntarily release bodycam footage of police shootings and is "striving to proactively release these videos within 45 days."

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