A Dallas County grand jury has cleared two Dallas police officers of an impending indictment for fatally shooting 39-year-old Jason Harrison, a mentally ill man holding a screwdriver.
Harrison’s family (who called the police for help) is disappointed and frustrated. Harrison’s brother says the family hopes this case will initiate change in the way deadly officer-involved shootings are handled. The City is currently defending the civil lawsuit filed by the Harrison family.
The family of the victim released the footage from an officer’s body camera to the public in march.
38-year-old Jason Harrison suffered from bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, and his mother had called for help in taking him to the local hospital after he had stopped taking his medication.
In the released video, Harrison’s mother answers the door calmly and Harrison comes along behind her, holding a screwdriver. Harrison’s mother can be heard telling the officers that Jason is bi-polar schizo as she walks out the door and past them. The officers, who appear in the video, demand that he drop the tool and seconds later fire several shots.
“It was the most heartbreaking experience in my life,” said his mother, Shirley Harrison, of the incident. “To stand there helpless, he’s helpless. I couldn’t help him. To be gunned down right before my eyes.”
In October, Harrison’s family filed a federal civil rights lawsuit in which they claim that Harrison did not pose a threat. Dallas Police Department spokesman Lieutenant Jose Garcia said that the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office had been sent the case and that a lawyer for the officers said they feared for their lives.
Harrison’s family disagrees. “We maintain the footage shows him not stabbing, not thrusting, not lunging in a way that would jeopardize the lives of these officers,” their attorney, Geoff Henley, said. “He never leaves the front porch and he’s gunned down.”
They are pressing for a wrongful death lawsuit. “We feel it’s vital to this case and we feel it’s vital to the public because this is not the way we want mental health cases contended with in our communities either here in Dallas County or elsewhere,” Henley said. “It’s absolutely horrific to be diagnosing schizophrenia with 9mm guns.”
The two officers involved, John Rodgers and Andrew Hutchins, are back on duty. But for Harrison’s family, the pain is still present.
“Every day I visualize the blood,” Shirley Harrison said. “All I visualize is the blood on his shirt. So it was very traumatic.”
NBC Dallas Fort Worth reports:
Attorney Chris Livingston, who represents the officers involved, said once the video is slowed it shows Jason Harrison move toward officers and his arm rotate down into a stabbing motion as the first shots are fired.
The family says a federal civil rights lawsuit filed in October will go forward.
Unedited video of the shooting. (Graphic Warning)