Houston officers shoot man who charged them with pellet gun

Editor's Note: Treat all guns - paintball, pellet and real - like they are real all the time. It is nearly impossible to differentiate between the three. That second that you take to analyze the weapon can prove fatal. Read more

Houston Chronicle

Four deputy constables opened fired on a man outside his northwest Harris County home Friday after authorities said he charged at them with a pellet gun.

Richard Williams was taken by Life Flight to Memorial Hermann Hospital, where he was in critical condition.

Williams, 35, a recruiter for an accounting firm in downtown Houston, suffers from depression, his family said. His parents questioned why deadly force was used to stop a man who was clearly troubled.

Harris County Precinct 5 Constable Glenn Cheek could not be reached for comment Friday evening, but authorities said Williams left deputies little choice but to open fire after rushing toward them with what appeared to be a rifle.

The shooting took place shortly after authorities received a 911 call from Williams' home in the 6200 block of Henniker. The caller hung up before speaking to emergency dispatchers about 10:18 a.m., said Harris County sheriff's spokesman Lt. John Martin.

When deputy constables arrived at the home in the Concord Bridge subdivision, Williams answered the door and appeared to be very disturbed, said Capt. Michael Coleman.

Williams refused to let deputies inside and spoke to them with his door partially opened, Coleman said.

A short time later, Williams came running outside with what appeared to be a rifle as deputies began to surround his home.

Four deputies then fired at Williams, who had an unknown number of gunshot wounds to the groin area, Coleman said. The shots also blew out the back window of a patrol car.

The firearm later was found to be a pellet gun, Coleman said.

"At the time, the officers didn't have time to figure out whether it's a pellet gun or a high-caliber gun," Coleman said, adding that a pellet gun also is dangerous and if fired at the right place can cause serious injury or death.

Williams' parents had more questions than answers Friday evening at they waited for word on their son's condition at a Memorial Hermann hospital.

Seyon Julien and Charmaine Julien said Williams still was in surgery about 6:30 p.m., for wounds to his leg and abdomen.

Charmaine Julien said her son has had a history of depression.

"The police said they got a 911 call from his home, but the caller hung up. The police went out, and they said my son was screaming," Julien said. "They said he had a shotgun."

"It just seems unbelievable. We are in shock. If somebody seems to be in distress, why did they shoot him?"

Julien said she thought law enforcement officers had Tasers to deal with people who were upset or combative.

A call for a Taser was put in, but Coleman said the deputies didn't have time to use it because Williams was running at them with a weapon.

Julien said she did not know if her son owned a gun.

"We have never seen a gun in his house. We never had guns when he was growing up," Julien said. "They also said he had a knife in his shoes."

"He's never told us he owned one (a gun), and we've sure never seen one in his home," Julien said.

Many residents in the neighborhood were stunned by the incident involving the neighbor they described as a quiet man who they regularly saw walking his two small dogs.

Betty Thompson, who lives next door to Williams, said he moved into the neighborhood about five years ago and lived alone in the home. She said he was a good neighbor and she never experienced any problems with him.

"I'm just shocked," she said as she peered down the cul de sac – it was sealed off by police tape and squad cars – where she has lived for 20 years.

The sound of the gunshots scared Veronica Graham, a certified nursing assistant who cares for a woman on Henniker.

"She (her patient) thought it was a firecracker and I told her, 'No, Mommy, that is no firecracker,' " said Graham, who added that she jumped to the floor inside her patient's home when she heard the shots.

Michael Brown, who lives across the street from Williams, said he also was troubled by the news. Although he didn't know Williams that well, Brown said he seemed like a nice man.

"He seemed like a really friendly individual," said Brown, who lives in the neighborhood with his mother and two children. "And (it) never seemed like he would have waved a gun at anyone or anything."

The shooting is under investigation by the Harris County Sheriff's Department's Homicide Division, as well as the Harris County District Attorney's Office, which is routine in all officer-involved shootings.

Copyright 2007 Houston Chronicle

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