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Officer Juventino Castro was cleared by a Harris County, Texas grand jury Tuesday for fatally shooting 26-year-old Jordan Baker last January. The Houston officer killed Baker with one shot after the unarmed black man reportedly fled after a scuffle with the cop, who had tried to stop Baker as he rode his bike through a strip mall. Castro was off duty at the time of the shooting, working as a mall security guard.
According to police reports, the officer tried to stop Baker because he matched the description of suspects who had recently carried out a string of robberies in the strip mall. The suspects wore black hooded sweatshirts, as did Baker on the night of his death.
MyFoxHouston reported that Baker allegedly fled, then turned and reached for his waistband before he was shot. ABC13 reported that Castro told investigators that Baker charged toward him when he fired his gun. Baker was the father of a seven-year-old boy. He reportedly died in the trash strewn alley behind the strip mall where he was shot. "My son was shot and killed for being in a place that he had every right to be in," his mother, Janet Baker, said.
"I know [Baker's relatives] are disappointed, but the grand jury's decision means they found that there was no probable cause to believe a crime was committed," Harris County district attorney Devon Anderson said. "It does not constitute an endorsement of the officer's actions."
The ruling comes in the midst of nationwide protests over grand jury decisions not to indict Darren Wilson in Ferguson for fatally shooting Mike Brown, nor to bring charges in New York against Officer Daniel Pantaleo for the choking death of Eric Garner. A grand jury this week also cleared a Milwaukee officer for shooting dead Dontre Hamilton, an unarmed black man who was diagnosed as schizophrenic.