Officer Shane Privette, a highly decorated officer with approximately five years on the department, was indicted by a grand jury last week on first degree Aggravated Assault. To call this indictment “highly questionable” would be an understatement.
We held a press conference the following day outlining the details of the event. We made sure to let everyone know that Officer Shane Privette followed all department procedures and guidelines. He did absolutely nothing wrong in using force that is approved and trained by the Houston Police Department.
I want to take this opportunity to review all the details with you, so you can be educated if someone from the public we are charged with protecting has any questions about the situation.
The arrest and subsequent use of force occurred over 20 months ago in the fall of 2017. Officer Privette was in uniform in a marked patrol vehicle, assisting as the “take down” car for an undercover narcotics investigation. During that investigation an undercover narcotics officer purchased crack cocaine from the suspect in this case, Dwayne Walker. Now Dwayne Walker is no stranger to the law; he has been arrested well more than 20 times with charges that include evading arrest, burglary, selling drugs, assault/family violence – and the list goes on and on.
Once Dwayne Walker sold the narcotics to the undercover, a crime he would later plead guilty to and receive 10 months in jail, Officer Privette attempted to make a lawful arrest. From jump street Dwayne Walker was not complying with Officer Privette’s verbal commands to put his hands behind his back. I will remind you once again that Privette is in full uniform and in a marked patrol vehicle.
At this point Officer Privette was able to get one handcuff on the suspect’s arm, at which time Mr. Walker complained that he has a pre-existing shoulder injury and as a result does not want to be handcuffed behind his back. In an act of consideration, Officer Privette began to handcuff him in the front of his body.
Mr. Walker immediately started resisting, pushed away and attempted to flee on foot. I guess his shoulder didn’t hurt too bad after all. Unbeknownst to Officer Privette and the other officers on scene, this violent, drug-dealing repeat offender had an open blue warrant (parole violation) out for his arrest and he had no intention of going back to jail. He even told officers that he wanted them to kill him.
At the time Mr. Walker began to struggle, Officer Privette had not yet been able to complete a thorough search to see if he had any hidden weapons. As the suspect attempted to run, Officer Privette was able to hold on to the individual’s arm long enough for his partner to assist him in taking the suspect to the ground in order to get him under control.
While on the ground Mr. Walker continued to fight both officers, all while ignoring their repeated verbal commands to stop resisting. Mr. Walker still didn’t give up his hands. Any reasonable, well-trained police officer would expect that he was reaching for a weapon. Look at the totality of the circumstances: he is a drug dealer, who is attempting to flee and is now resisting officers.
At this point in the struggle, Officer Privette delivered knee strikes to the side of the suspect’s torso in order to gain compliance and get him safely into custody. The strikes seemingly had no effect in gaining the necessary control. With the fight still on and not knowing if the suspect had a weapon, Officer Privette delivered one knee strike to the suspect’s head. Immediately after the knee strike the suspect complies with the officer’s commands and he was taken into custody.
The suspect suffered a cut to his face during the struggle and officers immediately contacted HFD to treat him. The knee strikes that Officer Privette utilized to gain control of the suspect are APPROVED and TRAINED by the Houston Police Department. They are acceptable within department procedures, training protocols and guidelines, modeled after the Department of Justice and FBI standards and procedures for use of force.
So, to summarize, we have an officer who was attempting to arrest a violent drug dealer with an outstanding parole warrant, who violently resisted arrest. He used strikes that are lawful, within department policy and he did exactly as his training would dictate.
We here at the HPOU aren’t the only ones who think so. After HPD and the Independent Police Oversight Board each conducted a rigorous and thorough investigation that included body cam video, they found NO EVIDENCE of wrongdoing.
From the first sergeant on scene, all the way up through Chief Acevedo, everyone cleared this officer. Chief Acevedo re-affirmed this fact to the entire department shortly after the indictment was announced. In fact, he was completely EXONERATED on the use of force, meaning they found absolutely no wrongdoing on his part, which we all know is an extremely high bar.
Unfortunately, here we sit with our brave, decorated officer facing a first-degree felony, which could carry 25 years in prison, for simply doing his job exactly as he was trained to do. I repeat: He did nothing wrong!
I can’t begin to speculate what happened during the grand jury proceedings, but I know that the officer was never contacted, never given an opportunity to speak, and – to our knowledge – no use of force trainer/experts were brought in to explain this case. Any reasonable person who knows anything about HPD policies and training would not have made the egregious mistake to indict this officer.
I would imagine that once more experienced eyes view this case at the DA’s office, they will realize they have nothing, and the case will be dismissed. If not, we are 100 percent prepared to defend Officer Privette, using any and all resources available to clear his good name. We are confident we will prevail in any trial.
There is one person at fault for this entire incident and that is the violent, drug-dealing career criminal, Dwayne Walker. Too often officers are blamed for use-of-force incidents when all the suspect had to do was to comply with the lawful commands he or she was given. Had Mr. Walker simply handled his arrest like an adult, none of this would have happened. He is to blame, not Officer Privette.
The truth is, any one of us could be Shane Privette. If this is the standard for indictments of police officers in Harris County, then any one of us could be indicted tomorrow for simply doing our job in the manner in which we trained. We are all Shane!
I can assure you the HPOU will not stand idly by and allow one of our fellow officers to be dragged through the mud. We are defending and will continue to defend Shane vehemently. We will not rest until his name is cleared. We will not allow a young man’s life ruined for following the department’s policy, training and the oath we swore to uphold.
As always, be safe out there and if you need anything I am only a phone call away, text, or you can also reach me at the following: email (firstname.lastname@example.org), messenger on Facebook, DM on twitter (@JoeGamaldi).