Houston, TX – Houston police charged an 18-year-old woman who threw a pistol out of a car window with “littering with gun” because the Harris County prosecutors refused to authorize weapons charges.
The incident occurred on Sunday when two Houston police officers on patrol initiated a traffic stop in the 7200-block of Tobruk Lane, according to an internal Houston Police Officers’ Union memo obtained by Blue Lives Matter.
As they were attempting to stop the vehicle, both officers witnessed the passenger throwing a pistol out of the car’s window.
Once they had the vehicle stopped, the officers detained the male 17-year-old driver and his 18-year-old female passenger and located the weapon where it had been tossed, according to the confidential memo.
The driver told the officers that he had given the gun to his passenger and told her to throw it out the window.
All of the admissions were captured on the officers’ bodycams so it should have been an easy slam dunk to charge both the driver and his passenger, but that isn’t how it works in Harris County.
Law enforcement officers in Harris County are required to contact the district attorney’s office for permission to charge before they actually arrest a suspect, Houston Police Officers’ Union Vice President Doug Griffith explained to Blue Lives Matter.
“We are the only county in the state that does this,” Griffith said. “We have to contact the DA’s office and ask permission to file the charge. It’s always been that way.”
What’s different now is that current Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg has quickly earned herself a reputation as a friend to the Houston criminals by refusing to charge anything but the most violent of crimes.
“In my 28 years with the Houston Police Department, this is the first district attorney who has actively refused charges on good hard criminals where we have body camera evidence,” Griffith told Blue Lives Matter. “It’s truly sickening that our officers put themselves in harm’s way and then turn around and have a DA refuse all charges.”
And that’s exactly what happened on Sunday.
The officers contacted the district attorney’s office to get permission to charge the pair who had tossed the gun under Texas’ Unlawfully Carrying a Weapon (UCW) statute and spoke with Assistant District Attorney Twyanette Wallace, according to the internal memo.
Wallace declined to authorize the weapons charges.
So the officers contacted the chief district attorney on duty, Assistant District Attorney Eric Bily, and presented their case.
Bily, like his colleague Wallace, declined to authorize a weapons charge.
He told the officers that there was no crime of UCW because the teenagers were just trying to “abandon the gun,” the police union’s memo read.
Bily also said the crime wouldn’t be considered tampering with evidence because they weren’t committing a felony at the time the gun was thrown out the window of the car.
But it is illegal, under Texas and federal law, for anyone under the age of 18 to possess a handgun.
The officers contacted their supervisor and the sergeant agreed with their assessment that an arrest should be made, the memo said.
The memo said the sergeant instructed one of the officers to read the pair their Miranda rights and re-interview them.
Once again, the driver admitted to the officers again that the gun had been on the floorboard of the vehicle in plain view when the police initiated the traffic stop.
The memo said the driver told the officers for a second time that he gave the gun to his passenger to throw away before they stopped the car for the officers. Again, his confession was captured on multiple bodycams.
So the sergeant called the district attorney’s office to plead the officers’ case for the obvious charges that should be filed against the suspects. He talked to Bily.
“I even told the DA that throwing the gun out of a window is reckless according to the penal code and still nothing,” the sergeant explained in the police union’s memo. “ADA Bily still insisted that the kids were just trying to ‘abandon the gun.’ I don’t understand it. The kid admitted to having it and is only 17.”
The frustrated sergeant told the officers to charge the driver with whatever traffic violations applied and arrest the female passenger for “littering a gun,” according to the memo.
“That sounds so ludicrous,” the sergeant said. “I hope the municipal judge reads that charge and has a ton of questions.”
Griffith said the police union is hearing the same stories from most of its members.
“We are having all kinds of issues with the district attorney’s office refusing charges,” he told Blue Lives Matter. “We have a fairly new, liberal district attorney – she used to be a prosecutor in gangs and back then, she went after them hard. But then something flipped, and now half the DA’s office is defense attorneys.”
“It’s getting really, really bad,” Griffith said. “We had a guy last night arrested with a prohibited weapon and he got a $100 bond.”
The union leader said that the district attorney’s office refusing to charge has become so commonplace that now the Houston Police Department is tracking it.
“When charges are rejected, we have to send a memo in to the department because we’re tracking rejected charges now,” Griffith told Blue Lives Matter.
He also said the Harris County District Attorney’s Office has stopped prosecuting charges of resisting arrest and assaults on police officers that are committed while the suspect is resisting.
The district attorney was outed for retaliating against police officers who criticized her new charging policies in February of 2018.
That’s when she cut off police access to a database that is essential to criminal investigations, the police union said.
Shortly thereafter, Ogg’s office issued a memo prohibiting assistant district attorneys from communicating with law enforcement officers regarding the disposition of criminal cases, according to a document received by Blue Lives Matter.
“[The] DA's office [is] playing politics w/public safety and endangering Houstonians by denying our detectives access to a very important database,” Houston Police Officer’s Union (HPOU) President Joe Gamaldi tweeted at the time.
“They are specifically targeting HPD, every other agency in [Harris County] still has access,” Gamaldi charged.
“I never thought in a million years this office would play politics over public safety but here we sit, with our officers denied to a system that is extremely important to investigating these public crimes and they just took it away on a whim,” he told KPRC.
Blue Lives Matter reached out to the Harris County District Attorney’s Office, and to Wallace and Bily specifically, for comment but received no response as of publication time.