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Grand Jury Clears Houston Officer in Killing of Unarmed Black Man

Jordan Baker was shot by officer Juventino Castro in January

26-year-old Jordan Baker was killed by an off-duty police officer in January. (Photo: KTRK)

A grand jury on Tuesday cleared a Houston police officer for the fatal shooting of Jordan Baker in January.

Juventino Castro will not be charged for killing 26-year-old Baker, who was unarmed, in a decision that comes amid growing civil rights protests against police racism and brutality.

Castro was off duty at the time of the shooting, but was in uniform as a private security officer. He claimed Baker had charged at him during a confrontation.

Baker's death, as well as the jury's decision, echo the similar cases of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and Dontre Hamilton, all unarmed black men killed in violent encounters with police officers who were subsequently cleared of any wrongdoing.

"To hand over a decision like this, 48 hours before Christmas, is unconscionable," activist Deric Muhammad said. "It's as if they put a non-indictment in the box, put a bow on it and gave it to this mother to take home and said, Merry Christmas. That is the kind of system that we are dealing with here in Houston and Harris County."

A Houston Chronicle analysis found that Harris County, which deliberated this case, has not indicted a single officer in a shooting since 2008. More than 25 percent of the civilians shot by police between 2008 and 2012 were unarmed.

"I want to express my deepest sympathies to Janet Baker and the entire Baker family," said Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson in a statement. "I know they are disappointed, but the grand jury's decision means they found that there was no probable cause to believe a crime was committed. It does not constitute an endorsement of the officer's actions."

The Chronicle writes:

Flanked by supporters, Janet Baker slowly walked out of the grand jury waiting room and faced a throng of news cameras. 

She said her son was simply at a shopping center three blocks from his home. 

"I intend to seek justice for Jordan," she said in a soft, breathless whisper. "We just have a lot of work to do." 

When asked if she had something to say to Castro, she responded that she would rather speak to the system that cleared him.

The Baker family's attorney, Sadiyah Evangelista, said she would ask the U.S. Justice Department to intervene.

Muhammad, who has been active in organizing events in Houston in Baker's honor, announced a city-wide protest to take place at 3:30pm on December 29 outside of the courthouse. "Regardless of the grand jury's decision, Jordan Baker's death will not be in vain," he said. "We have decided that the push for justice will not stop in the secret halls of the Harris County grand jury. We're taking it further. We obviously have a system that don't give a damn about us."

"What can I say," Muhammad added. "So much for justice and welcome to Ferguson, Texas."

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