By Ben Swann
Houston, Texas, May 10, 2014- On Wednesday the family of a man killed during a police shooting released video footage showing the final minutes of his life. The shooting occurred when Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office (FBCSO) deputies were responding to a 911 call on the evening of Nov. 4, 2013, at the home of Michael Blair.
Blair, who had been diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic, was threatening suicide and had locked himself in a bathroom. When deputies arrived they first knocked on the bathroom door, asked Blair how he was doing, if he was dressed and to come out and speak to the officers.
The officer then told Blair that if he didn’t open the door he would kick it in.
“Michael? You want to do this the easy way, don’t make us do it the hard way,” the officer could be heard saying on the video.
Another officer then picked the door lock and opened it slightly before yelling, “He’s got a knife” prior to Blair slamming the door closed.
During the confrontation Blair was struck numerous times with a stun gun, but refused officers commands to drop the knife. The final seconds of the video show Blair stumble towards the bathroom doorway as a deputy yells at him to stop, at which point the officer begins to fire his weapon repeatedly.
It remains unclear from the footage whether Blair was coming at the officers intentionally or tripped on the bathtub wall.
The video shows that the deputy fired his weapon 11 times, continuing to shoot even after Blair had fallen to the ground. Inconsolable screams from family members can be heard in the background.
Quanell X a local community activist, along with several of Blair’s family members and others, held a press conference in Houston on Wednesday, May 7, where they gave the video to U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson’s office, representing Texas’ Southern District.
The Blair family, prior to calling 911, had called a mental health hospital asking for assistance and was told by the facility to call 911. Speaking for the family, Quanell X said the family reluctantly did so.
“They didn’t want to call the police, because they were concerned that if the police came they would not handle the situation accordingly, and it would have a dreadful outcome,” said Quanell X, adding, “So they continued to call, and then they were told again, ‘call 911.’ The worst thing they ever did was call 911 to help their loved one who was suffering a mental health breakdown.”
Quannel X called the shooting “nothing less than a cold-blooded execution,” going on to state that, “This tape shows a cold-blooded killing of a young man who was in dire need of mental health therapy. The man needed a prescription, not a bullet. “
He said the tape was only now released to “expose” the officers seen in the video. He went on to state that the family will be pursuing a civil suit over Blair’s death.
He also said the family wants the FBI to undertake a full investigation, as well as the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Kimberly Blair Olaniyai, the mother of Blair, said she wants people to know that she has forgiven the officer that shot her son.
“We want him to live a long life, so he will always remember my son and how he murdered him in that bathroom that day. My son did not deserve 11 shots to his head, and we have to find out from the media how many times he was shot in that bathroom. Even though we heard the shots ring out, we didn’t know. All that we’re asking is that someone recognizes what we recognize. That was brutality at its finest in that bathroom that day,” said Olaniyi
FBCSO spokesman Bob Haenel said the Sheriff’s Office couldn’t comment on the Internal Affairs investigation, or the shooting video, as the FBCSO hadn’t received a copy.
At the time of the shooting the FBCSO was in the process of creating a crisis intervention team and training its deputies on how to deal with mental health problems. Haenel said the 10-member team is now operational.
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