Police State/Civil Liberties

Houston police shoot wheelchair-bound amputee threatening people with pen


(CNN) — A Houston police officer shot and killed a schizophrenic, wheelchair-bound double amputee threatening people with a pen at a group home for the mentally ill after authorities said the man advanced on the officer’s partner.

The shooting occurred early Saturday morning after police responded to a call that resident Brian Claunch was acting aggressively after his caretaker refused to give him a cigarette and a soda, the owner of the home and police said.

“The officers made verbal commands for the suspect to drop whatever he had in his hand, to stay still and to speak with the officers, but the suspect continued to make threats,” Jodi Silva, a police spokeswoman, told CNN affiliate KTRK in Houston.

Claunch, who lost an arm and a leg in a train accident, trapped one of the officers with his wheelchair in the corner of a room and attempted to stab the officer with an object that turned out to be a pen.

Officer Matt Marin, “in fear of the safety of his partner and the safety of himself, discharges his duty weapon, striking the suspect,” Silva said.

Marin shot Claunch once. He died at the scene, according to investigators.

It was the second time Marin was involved in a shooting. In October 2009, he shot and killed a knife-wielding man who stabbed his girlfriend and a neighbor, according to published reports at the time. Marin joined the Houston Police Department in 2007.

CNN could not reach the department for comment, but Houston police said the officer was placed on administrative leave per policy.

Claunch, who was in his 40s, had been at the Healing Hands home for 18 months, John Garcia, the owner of the group home, told KRTK.

Houston police have not released the identity of the man, though Garcia identified him as Claunch.

Garcia told the Houston Chronicle that Claunch liked to “doodle.”

Two days earlier, Garcia gave Claunch a black felt pen to draw. Garcia told the newspaper he did not know if it was that pen or another one that Clauch had in his hand when he was shot.

Garcia said Claunch suffered from schizophrenia and a bipolar disorder.

“He had a temper. He could fly off once in awhile,” he told CNN affiliate KHOU.

Claunch was capable of making people in the house feel threatened during an outrage, even though he was confined to a wheelchair, Garcia said.

“Emotionally disturbed individuals, when threatened, are going to react in most instances, excessively,” Dr. Ed Reitman, a clinical psychologist, told KRTK.

“This was an incident that didn’t have to take place if the individual — a police officer — had been trained in dealing with emotionally disturbed individuals.”

The Houston Police Department has officers trained to deal with the mentally ill, though the department would not say whether Marin received training, according to KRTK.

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