HOUSTON (AP) — The FBI will help investigate what led a Houston police officer to shoot and kill a wheelchair-bound double amputee who was agitated and threatening police with what turned out to be a ballpoint pen, the city's police chief said Monday.
Police Chief Charles McClelland also asked the community to "reserve judgment" on the officer and his actions this weekend at the Healing Hands group home for the mentally ill, and sought to reassure the public that all of the city's officers are trained to deal with people with mental problems.
Officer Matthew Marin shot 45-year-old Brian Claunch early Saturday after responding to a call that the one-armed, one-legged man was causing a disturbance inside the home. Police have said Claunch cornered and threatened Marin, who reportedly told investigators he didn't know the object in Claunch's hand was a pen.
"It is my desire to have everyone reserve judgment until all the facts and evidence in this investigation have been gathered," McClelland said in a statement.
Police spokeswoman Jodi Silva said she didn't know if FBI assistance in officer-involved shootings was rare, but said "it's the step we're taking at this point." She referred other questions to McClelland's statement.
Marin, a five-year veteran of the department, has been placed on three-day administrative leave. That is standard department procedure for all officer-involved shootings, and Silva said no unusual measures were being taken that would prevent Marin from returning to duty this week.
It's the second time Marin has killed a suspect while on duty. In 2009, investigators said Marin came upon a man stabbing his neighbor to death at an apartment complex and fired when the suspect refused to drop the knife.
Marin and a partner arrived at the group home around 2:30 a.m. responding to a disturbance call made by the group's caretaker. Police have not elaborated on the nature of the disturbance before they arrived.
Once inside the home, the department said in a separate statement released Monday, they found an agitated Claunch threatening to kill the officers and other residents. While yelling at the officers, Claunch "waved a shiny object in his hand in their direction," according to the statement.
Police say Claunch refused an officer's direction to drop what turned out to be a ballpoint pen.
"As the suspect backed one of the officers into a corner, he attempted to stab the officer with the object," the statement said. "Officer Marin, fearing for his partner's life, and his own safety, discharged his duty weapon one time, striking the suspect."