Criminal Justice

Lawsuit filed against Harris County deputy who shot and killed an unarmed Black man in 2018

The lawsuit comes after the deputy was cleared of criminal liability in 2020 and after a federal lawsuit against the man was dismissed.

Lucio Vasquez / Houston Public Media
Malikiya Thomas (middle) talks about her father, Danny Ray Thomas, who was shot and killed by a Harris County Sheriff’s deputy in 2018. Taken on September 20, 2022.

The family of Danny Ray Thomas, who was shot and killed by a Harris County Sheriff’s deputy in 2018, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the deputy on Tuesday.

At a press conference in front of the Harris County Civil Courthouse on Tuesday, Attorney Ben Crump — who’s representing the Thomas family — said Thomas was experiencing a mental health crisis at the time of the shooting.

“Why is it that Black people having a mental health crisis can’t get the benefit of consideration, the benefit of professionalism?,” Crump said.

Dashcam video of the March 22, 2018 incident appears to show Thomas, 34, with his pants around his ankles while in the middle of the intersection of Imperial Valley and Greens Road during an altercation with another person.

After Harris County Sheriff’s deputy Cameron Brewer arrived on the scene, Thomas begins to walk towards the deputy. In response, Brewer can be heard repeatedly demanding that Thomas “get on the ground” before firing one shot, killing the unarmed man.

One month after the shooting, Brewer was fired from the Harris County Sheriff’s Office and charged with aggravated assault by a public servant — the deputy was ultimately acquitted in August 2019 and reinstated one year later.

The family filed a federal lawsuit against Harris County and Brewer in April 2018, which was dismissed in August due to “qualified immunity,” according to Crump.

Crump added that his team was appealing the dismissal and moving forward with the second district-level lawsuit — which names Brewer as the sole defendant — after a federal judge allowed the family to proceed in state court.

At Tuesday’s press conference, Crump was joined by several of Thomas’ family members, including his 19-year-old daughter Malikiya Thomas, who said her family will always be “scarred” by the loss of their father.

“My dad wasn’t able to see me or my sister graduate. He won’t be able to see my brothers and sister graduate. He won’t be able to see us get married,” she said. “Our father was taken from us by a police officer and he was protected by his badge.”

Read the full lawsuit below:

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