He lost his right leg and right arm when he was hit by a train. He was confined to a wheelchair. He lived in a group home. He had some mental issues - some serious mental issues.
He got upset early the other morning because his caregiver wouldn't give him a cigarette. Naturally when he got upset someone called the police. And that's where things went wrong. Bad wrong.
Brian Claunch was waving a pen when the police arrived. Instead of determining whether Mr. Claunch was in need of medical attention the police escalated the situation and, when it was all over, Mr. Claunch was dead - in his wheelchair. Holding a pen.
It was bad enough when officers in Montgomery County managed to shoot a paraplegic to death in the cab of his truck, but it would appear that the good men of the Houston Police Department couldn't allow themselves to be outdone by their colleagues to the north.
I understand that the first rule of policing is to make it home safely at the end of the shift. But I also understand that a man waving a pen in a wheelchair is not a target worthy of hot lead in his chest.
The officer who killed Mr. Claunch claimed he was worried about his partner's safety. Really? Let's see. Mr. Claunch was missing an arm. He was waving a pen in one hand. His only hand. Just how was anyone in any danger?
The mind just wanders aimlessly trying to get a head around just what was going on in that home on Saturday morning. Whoever called 911 was aware that Mr. Claunch was emotionally disturbed. The caller was aware that he needed help - not a bullet.
The police are not equipped to handled mentally disturbed individuals. Nothing good ever comes of it. The mission of the police is to fight, and prevent, crime, not to provide mental health care. The police are used to be in charge. When an officer asks you to jump, the correct response is not why.
But, time and time again, the police find themselves dealing with someone who isn't in his or her right mind. A person who isn't going to ask how high; a person who either doesn't understand the question or has no way of answering it in a way that an officer wants.
These situations invariably end with someone being tased or shot because the officers involved were woefully unprepared or untrained to deal with the situation.
It's not Mr. Claunch's fault his brain isn't wired like ours. But he needed treatment and counseling, not the death penalty.