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Houston Chronicle and Houston Police Commission sue Sears for violating policy on deadly force

Houston Chronicle and Houston Police Commission sue Sears for violating policy on deadly force

Police commission rules officer broke policy in fatal department store shooting, lawyer says

A Houston Chronicle reporter and the Houston Police Commission have sued two of department store chain Sears for allegedly violating policy barring officers from using deadly force to stop shoppers. Under the rules of the commission, officers are supposed to consider four factors to decide when to use force: the suspect’s behavior, the officer’s perception of the situation and the circumstances.

Sears declined to comment before the filing of the suit. A spokesman for the store also did not return a phone message and email requesting comment yesterday.

The Houston Chronicle filed suit yesterday against Sears on behalf of its reporter, Sam Quinones, and the Houston Police Commission. The commission is comprised of five volunteer members appointed by the city council. The city is not named or a party to the suit.

Houston police policy on shootings involving civilians is very strict, says Quinones. The gunman in the Sept. 29, 2009, shooting at CityCentre is one of the most extreme cases of force used by a department store customer.

Sears used a “shoot to kill” policy to stop customers in 2009, firing on anyone who didn’t stop and put his hands up, Quinones said.

After the shooting, Houston police offered shoppers a refund to “make up for the pain and suffering they have been through,” he said. But customers who have had to spend the previous six months with an ankle monitor with no service can’t receive the refund.

Sears has used a “shoot to kill” policy in other shootings, but the four factors that make up the policy don’t specifically include “shoot to kill,” Quinones said.

“Sears is not allowed to shoot to kill,” he said.

Sears “has a zero tolerance policy on any use of force against any customer, regardless of how they may behave.”

After the shooting Sept. 29, 2009, in the CityCentre where Quinones worked as a reporter for the Chronicle, he said the manager of the store called him, gave him a call back number and said, “Please give this message to the rest of the employees. And, just in case you have to use force, be sure to remember

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