- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 23, 2014

HOUSTON (AP) - A grand jury on Tuesday declined to indict a Houston police officer in the January fatal shooting of an unarmed black man, a decision that follows similar outcomes in recent officer-involved deaths in Missouri, New York and Wisconsin.

The Harris County panel returned its decision in the case of Juventino Castro, who shot and killed 26-year-old Jordan Baker on Jan. 16. Castro, who is Hispanic, was off duty but in uniform, working an extra security job at a strip mall where there had been several robberies.

Castro attempted to stop Baker, who briefly struggled with the officer and then began running, Houston police said at the time. Department spokesman Kese Smith said Baker “put his hands in his waistband, crouches down, charges the officer and tells the officer, ‘I told you I am not going to jail.’” Castro fired once, striking Baker.

Baker’s mother, Janet, contended that Castro wrongly profiled her son as a criminal wearing a hoodie. She’s been backed by activists staging rallies about the case.

“I intend to seek justice for Jordan,” Baker’s mother said as she left the grand jury waiting room. “We just have a lot of work to do.”

Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson expressed sympathy for the Baker family.

“I know they are disappointed,” she said, “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.”

Anderson’s statement said at least nine of the 12 grand jurors had to determine there was probable cause a crime was committed, and that the jury’s decision indicated that the evidence “was simply not there for a criminal charge, much less for a conviction of murder under the ‘proof beyond a reasonable doubt’ standard.”

Castro, a 10-year police veteran, was on administrative duty for three days following the shooting, a standard procedure.

Houston police Chief Charles McClelland said in a statement that once his agency’s investigation into the shooting is finished, he will forward its conclusions to the local office of the FBI “to ensure there are no civil rights violations.” McClelland said his department is developing a new foot pursuit policy designed to protect officers and citizens.

“We will continue to evaluate our policies and training in an attempt to prevent these types of incidents in the future,” he said.

A Houston Chronicle examination of grand jury actions has found Houston police officers have been cleared in all shootings since 2008.

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