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