Sheriff: Jack in the Box suspects apparently did not fire weapons as first reported

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A community activist said Tuesday that the Harris County sheriff told him that teenage robbery suspects shot by police last week did not fire at officers, contrary to initial statements from the sheriff’s office.

A group of four boys allegedly held up a Jack in the Box restaurant in northwest Harris County on April 24. Officers had been following them since they were suspected in a spree of similar armed robberies earlier that week, using an allegedly carjacked white Ford Mustang.

Officers from several police agencies surrounded the building and called on a megaphone for the armed suspects to come out. Houston police and state troopers opened fire near the restaurant entrance.

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Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo arrived to the scene quickly and told reporters, “We’re trying to determine how many, if any, shots were fired by the suspects.”

The sheriff’s office said in a news release the next day that the suspects had fired first.

Community activist Quanell X said that Sheriff Ed Gonzalez told him otherwise in a 10-minute meeting shortly before noon Tuesday.

“It’s wrong,” the activist said. “It’s a lie. They never shot.”

Speaking in front of family members of the slain suspect and the two wounded suspects, Quanell X said the sheriff told him that forensic tests did not detect any gunshot-related residue on the teens’ hands or clothes. One handgun was a replica weapon and tests showed that the real one, a revolver, had not been fired, the activist said.

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Perhaps most importantly, Quanell X said, video showed the boys throw down the weapons. He said restaurant employees told him the teens were moving to surrender.

Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said the meeting was just a courtesy to the families of the slain or wounded suspects and that he did not share specific details of the case.

“We understand their perspective,” the sheriff said. “We spoke in generalities.”

However, Gonzalez did say he has not seen any evidence that the suspects did fire any shots –though it was too early to conclusively rule that out.

“It’s my understanding that the individuals involved did not fire weapons,” the sheriff said, emphasizing that it was far too early to be certain. He added that he has not personally seen surveillance video that Quanell X said showed the suspects throwing down their weapons.

Gonzalez did confirm the activist’s statement that one of the weapons turned out to be a replica handgun, though neither employees nor police had a way to know that at the time.

The sheriff also said that deputies were not among the officers who fired shots in the incident; those officers came from the Houston Police Department and the Texas Department of Public Safety.

In general, Gonzalez added, the sheriff’s office is “not afraid of transparency.” This incident marks one of the first high-profile officer-involved shootings since he took the reigns a few months ago after defeating the appointed interim sheriff in last November’s election.

Scroll through the gallery above to see how often police officers in Texas are involved in a shooting

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