Category Archives: Reginald Sumbler

Police versus police standoff ends peacefully – go figure

The difference between being a white police officer pointing a gun versus being a black man pointing a gun: compare the results of former police officer David James Vitrella’s stand off with Houston SWAT with the death of Reginald Sumbler this past August.

Vitrella was not killed by the shots fired by multiple police officers when he pointed a gun at them. Reginald Sumbler was. Vitrella had broken in and held his wife hostage. Reginald Sumbler had called to report that he was suicidal and needed help.

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Death of Reginald Sumbler Spurs Community Outcry

 Quanell X Holds Public Meeting on HPD Mental Health Response Continue reading

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HPD Tries to Paint Picture of Support from Houston Ministers Against Crime

After the jump is the press release from the Houston Police Department. The Press Conference had nothing to do with the death of Reginald Sumbler; rather, the Ministers Against Crime were talking about unchecked vandalism in the Sunnyside area.

Little does this also note, the Ministers Against Crime are a volunteer faction of the Houston Police Department. You have to literally sign up with  and be approved by the Houston Police Department to be a part of the group. The HPD was clearly trying to bully their volunteer group into agreeing with the shooting of Sumbler; however, the Ministers Against Crime refused to acknowledge the shooting as appropriate.

City Council members were present and did object to the shooting of Reginald Sumbler. Continue reading

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Reginald Sumbler Did Not Point Gun

Aug. 2, 2007, 7:25AM
Witnesses question shooting
Several say man slain by police made no threats

Several people who watched Reginald Sumbler hold police at bay for more than an hour Tuesday said the troubled man did not aim a pistol at the officers who surrounded him near his south Houston home.

Caesar Walker was on his front porch in the 4300 block of Mowery about 9:20 a.m. when Sumbler — armed with a 9mm pistol and holding a Bible — began the tense standoff with police that ended in a fatal hail of gunfire about an hour later.

Like other bystanders, Walker said he never saw Sumbler threaten the officers with the weapon. “He was shot first before he picked the pistol up,” Walker said Wednesday, as several of Sumbler’s relatives and friends gathered at the spot where he fell.

Citing their ongoing investigation, HPD officials on Wednesday declined to comment on specific details concerning the fatal shooting. They maintained, however, that deadly force was warranted after Sumbler pointed the pistol at officers. Even after he was struck and fell into a culvert, police said, Sumbler again grabbed for the pistol and fired at least once toward the officers.

But one day after the public event, many who witnessed the shooting wondered if police could have could have found a way to save Sumbler’s life and get him the help that he clearly needed. One city official said more outreach for the mentally ill is necessary to prevent tragedies like Sumbler’s in the future.

Walker said the first officers at the scene, including at least one trained in crisis intervention, were making progress in defusing the tense situation.

“The officer was talking to Reginald. He told Reginald to sit down and read the Bible,” Walker said.

Apparently heeding the officer’s request, Sumbler pulled the pistol from his waistband and placed it on the ground next to him, Walker said.

“Reginald was calm. If they had left (him) alone, he would have given up,” Walker said.

Diana Jones said Sumbler, the nephew she raised, had been despondent over several personal problems, including a child support dispute with the mother of his 2-year-old daughter.

“He felt that (life) wasn’t worth living. He said, ‘I feel like I’m going to lose my mind,’ ” Jones said.

Shortly before he went outside Tuesday, Jones said her nephew fired the pistol inside their house.

“He said, ‘I just can’t deal with it anymore,’ ” she said.

Police said Sumbler called 911 about 9:20 a.m. Tuesday, telling them that he planned to commit suicide.

As HPD officers moved in to set up a perimeter around the area, Sumbler alternated between pointing the pistol at his head, waving it around and placing it on the ground, police said.

They pleaded with him to move away from the weapon, police said Tuesday, and only fired when Sumbler pointed the pistol at them.

Quintina Talib who grew up with Sumbler, said the man became unnerved when the SWAT team arrived.

“It scared (Sumbler) because they were walking around with those big guns,” Talib said.

At times breaking into tears, Talib said Sumbler’s actions didn’t warrant the level of force that was used against him.

“They acted like this man had a bomb,” she said. “Once they hit him, they kept on shooting.”

Another witness, Delfino Ayala, said Sumbler moved away from the pistol as it lay on the ground several times — giving officers ample opportunity to take him into custody without resorting to gunfire.

“He didn’t point it at nobody,” Ayala said. “They (the police) came running at him (and) shooting him.”

On Wednesday, a large wooden cross was erected on the spot where Sumbler was shot. E.L. Jackson said he came by to remember the person he had known for a decade.

“This is where I lost my friend and this is where I wanted to be,” Jackson said.

Sumbler shouldn’t have put himself in a situation that endangered the lives of others in the area, he said.

Tuesday’s officer-involved shooting also drew comments from Houston city leaders.

Councilwoman Ada Edwards on Wednesday called for a prevention-based approach for dealing with people with emotional problems.

“If I’m a mother whose son is like this, how do I learn to keep him on his medication? We can’t leave this up to the police to handle — then we wind up with tragedy,” Edwards said.

Edwards also wanted to know why the SWAT team was called in.

“I want to know what the policy is,” she said. “Because I understand that it was being handled” (by a negotiator up to that point.)

There was not much officers could do once Sumbler stopped cooperating, said Mayor Bill White.

“We had a negotiation team there,” White said. “But, the fact is that if somebody has mental illness, and they pick up a gun and threaten police officers and disregard instructions by those officers not to keep a weapon in their hand, that is a dangerous situation for all involved.”

Chronicle reporters Matt Stiles and Carolyn Feibel contributed to this report.

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Reginald Sumbler Fatally Shot by Seven HPD Officers

Aug. 1, 2007, 12:11AM
Man killed by Houston police had financial woes
Police say they fired when pistol was aimed at them

A south Houston man killed by police Tuesday during a tense SWAT standoff outside his home had recently been depressed because of financial setbacks, family members said.

“He couldn’t keep a job. He lost a couple of cars,” said Ruth Moore, the grandmother of the man she identified as Reginald Sumbler. “He just got tired. You can get disgusted and tired.”

After holding police at bay for nearly an hour, Sumbler — armed with a pistol and toting a Bible — was shot about 10:30 a.m. when he pointed the weapon at officers who surrounded him in the 4300 block of Mowery near Duane, Houston police officials said.

“Our officers fired to protect the life of the officer who was threatened,” said Capt. Bruce Williams, an HPD spokesman.

Sumbler then fell back into a ditch near where he had been standing, on the grassy median between the rows of homes along Mowery.

Although struck by the gunfire, Sumbler grabbed at the pistol and raised it a second time toward the officers. Williams said he fired at least once.

“That is when both patrol officers and SWAT officers (again) discharged their weapons,” he said.

Sumbler was taken to Ben Taub General Hospital but died soon after his arrival, Williams said.

Tuesday’s fatal shooting appears to be a case of “suicide by cop,” where someone presents an imminent threat to a police officer in order to provoke a lethal response, HPD officials said.

“It was reported (to police) that a male had a weapon, wanting to kill himself or wanting officers to kill him,” Williams said.

‘Good dialogue’

Sumbler told relatives who were trying to calm him down to leave the area.”His threats were serious,” Williams said.

Police didn’t know if Sumbler had a history of mental illness but said they had reports he had taken some kind of narcotic earlier in the day.

The first officer at the scene was trained in crisis intervention and began talking with Sumbler, establishing what HPD officials called a “good dialogue.”

“The suspect appeared to have up and down swings in his mood. At one point, he seemed pretty calm,” Williams said. “At some point in time, the suspect was convinced to lay his weapon down.”

Williams didn’t know how long the crisis-trained HPD officer spoke with Sumbler before SWAT officers arrived at the scene and set up a perimeter around the area.

Community activist Quanell X blamed HPD’s SWAT team for escalating the tension until it erupted into gunfire.

“The first police officer did a great job talking to this young man,” Quanell said. But “he did not have the time that he needed because the SWAT team responded with their ‘shoot-to-kill’ mentality.”

Bystanders saw standoff

Williams didn’t know how long the first officer spoke with Sumbler before the heavily armed SWAT team arrived on the scene. Sumbler asked police to turn on their squad car radios so he could listen to the music and later wondered if the scene would be given news coverage.A crowd of bystanders watched as Sumbler began acting erratically, alternately waving his pistol in the air and reading the Bible he brought along. Although they were pushed back when police arrived at the scene, some still witnessed the standoff’s violent end.

Neighbor Chris Grant said he had known Sumbler for years, calling him his “homeboy.”

“I don’t know what was wrong with him. I never saw him ‘trip out’ like that,” Grant said.

He said he saw Sumbler holding the pistol but didn’t see him point it at the officers, whom he accused of overreacting to the perceived threat.

“I know they didn’t have to shoot that man so many times,” Grant said. “That first shot knocked him completely off his feet. He was on his back.”

‘No room for negotiations’

Williams called the officer-involved shooting “tragic” but said Sumbler gave police no other option when he aimed the weapon at them.”I think once you pull a pistol and raise it, and at some point discharge it, there’s no room for negotiations then,” Williams said.

An HPD spokesman on Tuesday did not know how many officer-involved shootings have occurred in Houston that resulted from suspected “suicide by cop” cases.

An HPD officer fatally shot Marnell Villarreal, 42, when she charged into police headquarters on May 6 while clutching a knife overhead.

Police said Villarreal cried out, “Shoot me, kill me. I want to end this,” and refused commands to drop the weapon. When a Taser had no effect on the distraught woman, the officer fired a single shot at her with his pistol.

The Harris County District Attorney’s Office along with detectives from HPD’s homicide and internal affairs divisions are investigating Tuesday’s fatal shooting.

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