The Category Is Before And After: Details Of The Shooting Remain Sparse

Maybe Herbert Ballance asked for it.  Maybe he did something to legitimately give rise to the bullet that entered his mouth and exited the back of his skull. Maybe. But it’s not like we’ll ever know.

“The case is now a closed criminal investigation which has not resulted in conviction or deferred adjudication,” says the letter, which seeks to block The Enterprise from acquiring the dashboard camera video, the full 911 call recording and other records of the incident.

The shooting occurred on March 5th.  Who pulled the trigger remains a mystery, because the Beaumont, Texas police chose to keep it that way.  They did, however, release the information they decided to release.

Police released Ballance’s name Monday, two days into the investigation. Names of the officers who were at the scene have not been released. One officer has been placed on paid leave during the investigation, which is standard procedure, Sgt. Cody Guedry said.

Shortly after 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, Beaumont officers were called to the trailer park near the corner of South 23rd and College streets after a caller said a suspect in a car theft was in the area, Guedry said. The caller told the dispatcher the suspect was armed, Guedry said.

When police arrived at the trailer park, Ballance came out of his home armed and confronted responding officers, Guedry previously said.

The word “armed” can mean a lot of things. The Beaumont Enterprise assumed it meant gun, because Texas.

It is unclear what type of gun Ballance was carrying.

Maybe it was a gun. Why doubt the assumption? And maybe he did “confront” the police officers, whatever that means. It could, after all, mean that he told the cops to shove it or pointed a gun, if he had one, in their direction.  But the Beaumont police were playing it tight to the bulletproof vest. After all, they were investigating a cop killing and releasing information to the public could inform and instill trust prejudice the investigation. So they released nothing.

Well, perhaps “nothing” is an overstatement.

Justice of the Peace Ransom “Duce” Jones ordered an autopsy. He expects to get a preliminary report today but said the final autopsy report depends on the toxicology, which takes weeks.

Ballance pleaded guilty on April 30, 2015, to possession of less than one gram of methamphetamine. Ballance received two years of probation, a $500 fine and 120 hours of community service and was ordered by the court to obtain a GED, the equivalency of a high-school diploma, according to court records.

And when the autopsy results came back, they were released.

Ballance, a 5-foot, 5-inch, 141-pound man, was shot one time, according to the full autopsy report.

The bullet entered the right side of Ballance’s mouth and exited his scalp 6 inches below the top of his head, according to the report.

The report does not specify how far away the officer was when the shot was fired other than to classify the estimated range as “distant.”

A toxicology screening showed the presence of methamphetamine in Ballance’s liver tissue, the medical examiner wrote.

The full toxicology report was requested from Judge Ransom “Duce” Jones‘ office last week and again on Tuesday but has not been released.

While the obvious need to prevent misinformation and prejudice against the police precludes release of source materials, like the dashcam video, the story is not without its happy ending:

A Jefferson County grand jury declined to charge the officer, a BPD spokesman said. The department has closed its investigation into the shooting, a department attorney wrote last week in a letter to the attorney general.

No information up front. No information behind. No indictment. No problem.  And if Ballance wasn’t asking for it, it wouldn’t have happened. After all, there’s no evidence to show otherwise.

Post Script: Texas has enacted data reporting requirements for police shootings, requiring departments to report within 30 days to the Attorney General, and for the AG to post the reports online within ten days thereafter. Advocates of legislative solutions lauded this law as the answer to police accountability.  So, how did this work out for Beaumont?

The AG’s office has not received a report from the March 5 shooting, a spokesperson said on Tuesday.

Guedry said BPD has submitted the report to the attorney general’s office.

Departments that maintain their own websites are supposed to post them there, as well. It could not be found on BPD’s website on Tuesday.

The reports are designed to collect data on officer-involved shootings that result in injury or death. They do not require a narrative.

Instead, the 13-item questionnaires ask for information like the age, gender and race of the officer and the person shot, as well as date, time and location. It also asks whether the injured or deceased person carried a weapon and what prompted the incident.

No report to be found. Surely, this will bring the wrath of Texas down upon the Beaumont Police Department.

Police departments do not face a penalty for missing the filing deadline, the AG spokesperson said.

Or not.  I hope that Herby Ballance was pointing a gun, ready to shoot, at this unnamed police officer, because otherwise, a lucky shot from a distance killed a human being and the killer will not only walk, but continue to patrol the streets and trailer parks of Beaumont.

No information up front. No information behind. No indictment. No problem.

Add to that no report as required by Texas law. Have a nice day.

H/T Mike Paar

13 thoughts on “The Category Is Before And After: Details Of The Shooting Remain Sparse

  1. Enjoin This!

    I’m sorry. All of my day’s worth of outrage has been used up in l’affaire d’#Trigglypuff. I can’t be bothered to care about the cold-blooded execution-by-cop …, er, I mean utterly justified self-defense shooting of the quiet, 22 year old Herby, who liked to play with kids and do yard work. After all, he was a meth user who didn’t even have a GED. No great loss, right?

    You said it a few weeks ago: if we’re expected to become outraged at trivialities, true outrages will become devalued. And people will care more about Trigglypuff’s momentary loutishness than a fucking killing.

      1. Enjoin This!

        If visuals for Herby were good, the cops would have issued the presser within hours.

  2. Tammy

    I am so mixed with the use of force issue. For one, I was originally trained as a peace officer, yes, ‘peace’ officer is what it was referred to back in 1997, I believe that term is still used today. We were not taught to shoot to kill, we were taught to injure and only use deadly force when absolutely necessary.
    Fast forward to today, and I see both sides of the coin because of the clientele and the law enforcement I work with. I also happen to be married to an ‘ex-con’ so my views are much more broadened than the average person. There is something to be said of respect, or lack of, which seems to be a societal problem. Respect prevents a person from stealing cars and engaging in criminal behavior. Respect also means that each human being is significant and is someone’s son or brother. The ‘happy’ medium, if there ever was such a time that we were closer to it, is totally lost because of the blatant animosity held by both sides. Fueled by wrongful deaths of those that don’t deserve to be killed for a petty incident, slain police officers, and a media that predominantly seeks sensationalism rather than solutions in many, not all instances, does not help the actual problem. I understand this is a legal blog, but if law is based on equal protection and neither side can comprehend respect any longer, perhaps education is of the greatest significance. How we do this, I am not exactly sure. I just know that the lack of it within American society has found its home amongst generational prejudices, and both sides-those who serve & protect, and those that are raised to disregard law, are in need of a severe overhaul. Perhaps things such as respect, accountability, integrity, and shared community needs to be taught in Kindergarten. We live in a society that minimizes the act(s) of drug use, and related crimes such as theft in order to justify over zealous cops and mass incarceration, aside from it being a racial issue. I meet many young people of all ethnicities who don’t vote, were born unto an accepted, drug addicted way of life, and could care less what tomorrow brings. The cops assume the worst because they are aware they are disliked and the odds have become so great that they may encounter violence. I recall as a teen living in a predominantly middle-upper class neighborhood and my car was broken into. After a full police investigative report and insurance, I felt a little at ease. Years later I’d find myself living in a lower socio-economic community where our vehicles were vandalized and broken into and we were told to report it online ‘because it happens all the time.’ Over time, Police departments have lessened their ability to take care of the smaller, incidental type crimes due to ‘budget restraints’ and this now is indicative of a system that can no longer take care of the little problems, so we have much bigger problems. It’s the status quo. We can perfectly accept whatever is or isn’t happening in our own back yard.
    It’s apparent we have lost the sensibility of what the ‘right thing’ is because our values are simply no longer harmonized under the umbrella of a greater communal respect.

  3. Jardinero1

    I was very curious about compliance rates when Texas became the first state to require PD’s to report all officer involved shootings and deaths to the State Attorney General. I was surprised that any PD’s reported anything at all. Even with under-reporting, the initial data is disturbing. The first reporting period was Sept, 2015. Texas police departments reported killing 11 people in September. That compares to a total of about 90 homicides per month in the entire state.

    There are 28,000,000 Texans, well armed, who committed 90 homicides; yet, there are only 43,000 police officer who committed 11 homicides. Since September, some months have had more officer involved shootings and some less. I think the average is in the low teens. Using the above numbers as a reference, we can discern that police officers are about 75 times more likely to kill you than your fellow citizen. The reality is likely higher given that there are still many unreported shootings such as the above referenced by SHG.

    Stay away from the police.

    1. SHG Post author

      With great reluctance, I’m not trashing your comment, but I should. You are no more allowed to give off-topic lectures here than anyone else. You’ve been warned before. You won’t be warned again.

  4. pavlaugh

    A little law is a dangerous thing, of course. The excerpt below is just a little law. Certainly too little. But I wonder what the rest is. I wonder if the Beaumont PD “front page” records (which would include the names of the officers) are not being disclosed.

    “We hold that the press and the public have a constitutional right of access to information concerning crime in the community, and to information relating to activities of law enforcement agencies. . . . As applied to this case, the competing legitimate interests are clear and important. The first legitimate interest to be considered is the people’s right to know. . . . We have, on the one hand, those who fear that the activities of the police will lead to impositions on the individual in the form of wire tapping or police brutality. Their focus of concern is on the creation of a police state.
    . . . .
    With respect to the Offense Report, it seems to us that these legitimate competing interests can be reconciled by the finding of a constitutionally protected right of the press and public to the front page (or an exact copy thereof) of the Offense Report structured to include the offense committed, location of the crime, identification and description of the complainant, the premises involved, the time of the occurrence, property involved, vehicles involved, description of the weather, A DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE OFFENSE IN QUESTION, AND THE NAMES OF THE INVESTIGATING OFFICERS. The disclosure of this information, to which the press is entitled as a matter of constitutionally protected right, will not preclude the press from interviewing the investigating officers and otherwise seeking additional information concerning a newsworthy crime. Along with the other records held in this opinion to be public records under the Open Records Act, the activities of the City of Houston law enforcement agencies will be open to public scrutiny.”

    Houston Chronicle Pub. Co. v. City of Houston, 531 S.W.2d 177, 186-87 (Tex. Civ. App.—Houston [14th Dist.] 1975). writ ref’d 536 S.W.2d 559 (Tex. 1976) (noting, further, that the offense report typically includes “the names and description of any suspects”) (emphasis added).

    tl;dr version — At least in Houston, there appears to be a First Amendment right to access to basic information contained in an offense report, including the officers’ names. One of the compelling interests justifying the right is that the public ought to know about “police brutality” and “the creation of a police state.”

    1. SHG Post author

      A little more law: Cops say “nah,” you then have to do something about it, like sue them and get a judge to give them a stern talking-to. If nobody sues, all those nice words mean nothing.

      1. pavlaugh

        The TX open records act allows a prevailing plaintiff to recover attorney’s fees. Perhaps that’s incentive enough for somebody to do something about it.

        1. Myles

          The lawyer rolls the dice on getting paid, at best getting what he put in (unlike PI), and the client gets a lawsuit, a retainer he may or may not get back, plenty of aggravation and time wasted, and at the very end, maybe find what he was looking for.

          Legal fees are better than nothing, but they aren’t an incentive.

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