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Modesto officer found justified in 2013 and 2016 shootings

Modesto Bee file

Almost five years after the incident, the Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office found a Modesto police officer justified in the shooting of a suspected gang associate who ran from him with a firearm.

The DA’s findings, released this week, were delayed because the suspect, who survived, bailed out of jail then failed to appear in court and remained a fugitive for four years. It is the DA’s policy not to review the use of force until after the outcome of any related criminal cases.

Officer Tyler Houston has been found justified in the five-year-old shooting as well as one that occurred in 2016.

Houston and Officer Brian Brinkley were working a Street Gang Unit patrol on Dec. 7, 2013, when they responded to a report of four suspects drinking in an alley behind a liquor store at Vernon Avenue and Paradise Road, according to a letter to Chief Galen Carroll from the DA’s office.

“The four appeared to be Vernon Block gang members and were committing a criminal offense so for officer safety Off. Brinkley started to pat them down,” reads the letter.

While he was doing that, one of the suspects who had not yet been patted down ran off.

Anthonie Allen-Hayes ran across the street and Houston chased him, the DA said. Allen-Hayes ran in between two houses, where he pulled a gun from his waistband and extended it away from his body.

“Houston gave commands to (Allen-Hayes), but (Allen-Hayes) did not drop the gun or stop,” the letter reads.

When Allen-Hayes got to a short fence between the two houses, he started to jump over it and turned toward Houston while still holding the gun, according to the letter.

Houston fired at Allen-Hayes, hitting him once.

The gun Allen-Hayes had was a HiPoint 9 mm handgun that had been reported stolen from Patterson.

Allen-Hayes was released from the hospital, booked into jail and bailed out within days of the shooting. He failed to appear for court and remained at large until March of 2017. Two months later, he pleaded no contest to carrying a concealed weapon and was sentenced to three years of probation.

The DA’s office concluded that Allen-Hayes’ action of pulling the firearm from his waistband would “cause any officer to be concerned for his/her safety.”

The 2013 shooting was the first of two for Houston.

In the early evening of Feb. 14, 2016, Houston shot Sherman August, a passenger who ran from a traffic stop holding a gun, the DA said. The office found him justified in that non-fatal shooting as well.

Houston and Officer John Wesley pulled over a Cadillac on Prescott Road near Plaza Parkway after the driver failed to stop behind the limit at an intersection, according to a letter from the DA’s office.

The officers had taken interest in the vehicle after seeing August pull his shirt over his face when they drove up alongside the Cadillac, the letter said.

As soon as the Cadillac pulled over, August got out, holding a Smith and Wesson .38 revolver, and began running toward a nearby business where customers were standing outside, the letter said. Houston ordered August to stop and drop the gun be he did neither, the DA said.

“Officer Houston felt that under the immediate situation the suspect was an immediate threat to those nearby and he fired until the suspect dropped the gun,” the letter reads.

Houston fired three rounds and hit August twice.

August, who survived, was charged with several offenses and ultimately pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm and resisting arrest. He was sentenced to five years in prison.

Carroll, after consulting with the city attorney, declined to release body camera footage of the shootings.

“I believe the viral nature of shootings without a comprehensive understanding and review of all the facts is counterproductive,” he said.

Some cities have developed policies regarding when and in what time frame video of a critical incident should be released, like in Sacramento, where it is released within 30 days.

Modesto does not have a policy.

There is a bill on Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk, AB 748, that would require the disclosure of all audio and video footage including body camera, dash camera and stationary camera footage, within 45 days of a critical incident. The same exceptions as with other public records would apply, like if it would hinder the investigation or endanger a witness.

Brown has until Sept. 30 to veto or sign the bill or let it become law without his signature.