Newly released bodycam video footage shows a Texas cop who is just one month removed from the police academy aiming and shooting his gun within seconds of seeing a dog running at him, with at least one of the bullets hitting and killing a homeless woman nearby. The Arlington Police Department went out of its way to announce that the offending officer was “a 25-year-old Asian American” but never mentioned the race of Margarita Victoria Brooks, the 30-year-old woman who was killed.
It was the latest controversial police shooting in Texas, where numerous unarmed people, especially Black folks, have suffered high-profile preventable deaths at the hands of law enforcement in recent years.
Arlington Police Chief Will Johnson told reporters on Friday that the unidentified officer responded to a call on Thursday about “an unresponsive female passed out in a grassy area behind a commercial business.” When the cop saw Brooks from a distance, he called out to her: “Hello. Are you OK?”
After she said she was “fine,” a dog appears in front of the officer about 20 feet from him.
“Is that your dog?” the cop asked before the dog started to run toward the officer a split second later, prompting him to yell “Get back!” before quickly firing off three shots. Brooks could be heard yelling, “Oh, my God!” after she was shot in the abdomen while the dog was only grazed, according to the Associated Press.
It’s hard to imagine that the officer’s reaction was consistent with the training he had received at the police academy, for which he had just been released from field training on July 1. Johnson said the officer had previously had experience as a corrections officer but not as a police officer.
A photo published by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that identified Brooks appeared to show a non-Black woman. But the bodycam footage begins with the unidentified officer asking a bystander if he was the one who called about “a Black female.”
That pre-existing knowledge could have subliminally informed what might be the officer’s implicit bias against Black people. In a split second, the officer had to decide how to respond to a dog running at him, and, perhaps still unsure if the woman was Black, his instinct was to reach for his gun and shoot wildly.
The shooting followed a handful of recent police violence against unarmed people in Texas who were mostly Black. One of the most egregious police shootings came when Pamela Turner, an unarmed grandmother, was shot and killed by an officer in Baytown in May. The officer reportedly approached Turner in an apartment complex parking lot because he knew she had open warrants. After the cop began to struggle with her, he shot her.
Last year, then-Dallas Police Officer Amber Guyger, who is white, illegally entered the apartment of Botham Shem Jean, who is Black, and implausibly said she mistook him for a burglar in her home before she shot the 26-year-old unarmed man to death.
Details were still unfolding in Arlington, but things likely did not bode well for the officer who shot Brooks. While cops who kill unarmed Black people routinely get acquitted, if they’re charged at all, the rules are apparently not the same for minority cops who commit similarly deadly offenses. Such was the case with the infamous Pink Houses shooting in a public housing project in Brooklyn in 2014. In that instance, NYPD Officer Peter Liang, an Asian American, “accidentally” discharged his gun in a dark stairwell, killing Akai Gurley, an unarmed Black man. Liang was indicted within two months and convicted in a year.
And in 2017, then-Minneapolis Police Officer Mohamed Noor, a Somali American, shot and killed Justine Damond, a white woman who called police for help. Noor, who was with his partner in a squad car, said he feared for his life — a classic defense from killer cops — after Damond startled the officers. About 18 months later, Noor was found guilty of third-degree murder and manslaughter.
Watch the Arlington bodycam video below: