Jordan Baker, a young black man, a father, a son, a partner, a Houstonian, was walking through the parking lot of a mall on January 16. He was stopped by an off-duty cop who was working security because he looked “suspicious.” He was unarmed. He was shot and killed.
And now, the killing of Jordan Baker is one of nearly 300 instances in which Houston grand juries have let officers walk in an instance of excessive use of force. This afternoon, a Harris County grand jury cleared HPD officer Juventino Castro, the man who killed Baker.
In the days, weeks, and months leading up to the announcement, Houston activists have demanded justice for Baker’s death in the form of a trial—what would be the first trial for a police officer using excessive force in ten years. This Sunday, a group of activists along with Jordan Baker’s family and friends gathered in the parking lot where he was killed to pray for the grand jury to give Officer Castro a trial.
According to Castro, Baker looked “suspicious” because he was wearing a black hoodie. Castro said that “a brief struggle and foot chase ensued.” Although Baker was allegedly running away, at one point, he—according to the cop who killed him—stopped and decided to charge the officer while reaching into his waistband (again, Baker was unarmed). That’s when Castro killed him.
Castro’s account of Baker’s last moments are curious: Why would anyone running from a police officer in uniform stop, turn around, and run back toward them while reaching for his waistband, where he wasn’t carrying anything? It’s a question that should be answered in trial. Now, it’s a question that Jordan Baker’s family will never have answered.
According to the Houston Press:
Janet remembers her son as a doting father, loving son and a hard worker. He was studying to become a welder, hoping to get a better-paying job to provide for his son, before he was shot and killed, Janet says. “We’re hopeful there will be a just outcome,” she said last week outside the grand jury room. Janet has waited outside the hearings each day with supporters from the Houston Justice Coalition and local activist Deric Muhammad.
“Plain and simple, this looks like a case of profiling,” Muhammad told the Press last week. “Why was Jordan stopped? Because a police officer thought he fit the profile of a suspect — black and wearing a hoodie.”
Outside the vigil Janet Baker called on Sunday in the parking lot of the strip mall where her son was gunned won, activists called for reforms to the grand jury system, pointing out that since 2004, Houston cops have been cleared every time they’ve gone before a grand jury for shooting a civilian. Last week, an HPD spokesman said the department is still conducting its own internal affairs investigation into the shooting.