The police officer who killed a young Black man by shooting him in the head was still on the payroll more than a week after the latest instance of homicidal violence by law enforcement in Texas.
Carmen DeCruz, a veteran officer with the Temple Police Department in North Texas, shot and killed Michael Dean, a 28-year-old father, on Dec 3, according to local news outlet KWTX. About a week later, a preliminary autopsy report declared Dean’s death a homicide. That much has been established.
But seemingly no other information about the shooting has been announced, with police directing questions to the tight-lipped Texas Rangers, which took over the investigation.
The entire unfortunate episode seemed to be following the script that Texas police have been almost exclusively authoring in recent years with a number of trigger-happy cops who shoot on the immediate sight of Black people.
Civil rights attorney S. Lee Merritt, who is representing Dean’s family, said during a press conference Wednesday that he met with the local district attorney but “it did not provide us any additional clarity.” Merritt said he was told the district’s attorney’s office was waiting for the Texas Rangers to complete the investigation instead of directing it itself.
“They should be leading the investigation, not simply sitting back and waiting for the results from the Texas Rangers,” Merritt said. “We don’t trust the Texas Rangers. The Texas Rangers have not earned our trust.”
Merritt went on to say that Dean’s family was going through “torture” after “their loved one was shot in the head by a police officer” and getting “absolutely no explanation for that use of deadly force.” While much of what the police were doing — or not doing — was par for the course, Merritt told the Associated Press that staying silent was pretty unprecedented.
“I’ve never, ever, ever, ever seen a case where there was absolutely no narrative, even if it was one that was later proved wrong,” Merritt said. “Typically, law enforcement, if they had a narrative that worked for them, they would release it.”
The NAACP held a march in honor of Dean on Wednesday and also demanded law enforcement to release information, according to local media outlet Fox 44 News.
Dean’s mother has said she needs to hear the truth, for better or for worse.
“If my son was in the wrong, so be it,” Christine Dean said last week. “But why is he dead? He didn’t deserve to be shot down. Nobody can give me answers. If he was in the wrong there would [be] a whole story out there, wouldn’t there?”
Christine Dean said the people who should be giving her answers, the Temple Police Department, are refraining to do so. “Temple has washed their hands of it. We’re told to contact the Texas Rangers,” she said.
At the time, Dean’s mother said a police detective initially told her that her son didn’t pull over right away and when he exited the car, he walked toward the officer, who then shot him.
“Things just don’t add up. He knows not to get out of a car when he’s pulled over. And people said they saw the police officer pull him (Michael) out of the car,” she said.
There’s also been talk of a possible coverup by the police.
The Temple Police Department didn’t release information that someone was killed in an officer-involved shooting until the afternoon of Dec. 3. When questioned as to why this was omitted from the initial news release after Dean had already been declared dead, spokesman Chris Christoff said the incident occurred in public, “meaning that the vehicle had the potential of being easily recognizable. We wanted an opportunity to notify Dean’s family prior to releasing the information to the public.”
Christine Dean said the cops didn’t tell the family that Michael was dead until about 1:30 a.m., which was more than five hours after he was shot. He was pronounced dead at 8:26 p.m., shortly after he was shot at around 8:15 p.m.
Christoff’s excuse for the late family notification was “The area was subject to extensive investigative procedure to include stabilizing the scene; maintaining the flow of traffic; contacting and the arrival of all the necessary resources and off-duty personnel to include justice of the peace; contacting all of the investigators to the scene to include the Texas Rangers; and confirming the identity of the deceased and the identifies/contact inform for next of kin.”
The officer-involved shooting also wasn’t listed on LexisNexis Community Crime Map, which is what Temple Police Department uses to inform the public of incidents in the neighborhood.
Michael was adopted by his family at four years old along with his four siblings. “He’s not a criminal. He wasn’t out there committing crimes,” his mother said. “They’re making it seem like he was a bad person.”
“I feel like someone messed up. I really do,” Christine said. “I want to know why my son died on the concrete. I’ve never heard of anyone not giving information about their loved one. If he did something wrong and you had to do it, so be it — but tell me.”
Merritt tweeted on Monday that the killings of Dean and other Black people by police was on a par with “genocide.”
Dean leaves behind three elementary-age children.
His death comes after Fort Worth Police Officer Aaron Dean shot and killed Atatiana Jefferson, also 28, in her own home in October. That just about a year after Dallas Police Officer Amber Guyger shot and killed Botham Jean, 26, in his own home. Guyger was convicted of murder on Oct. 1 and sentenced to 10 years in prison. Dean resigned from the police force before he could be questioned and has since been charged with murder.