Houston police confirms video evidence in 2014 shooting death, yet won't release it

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Nearly two years after the shooting death of Jordan Baker, 26, by an off-duty Houston police officer, activists in Texas are calling for the release of video footage that they believe could show the unarmed African-American man’s last minutes.

The Houston Police Department confirmed the existence of the video but is refusing to release any evidence of the incident on the advice of the city's attorneys.

Baker was killed on Jan. 16, 2014, by off-duty officer Juventino Castro. The following month a grand jury declined to indict Castro, citing a lack of evidence.

That decision prompted a string of demonstrations in Houston that became part of the national protests over police shootings of unarmed black men following the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

Now, according to the Houston Chronicle, HPD spokesman John Cannon has confirmed the existence of a video that was gathered as evidence in the Castro case. He would not describe whether or not the video showed any part of Baker’s death.

"Due to possible civil litigation, and on the advice of the city attorney, HPD will not release any evidence regarding this case at this time as permitted by the Texas Government Code," the department said in a statement.

"What is the HPD trying to hide?" the Chronicle quoted community activist Deric Muhammad as saying at Monday's protest. "We demand the release of the Jordan Baker video immediately!"

In its statement, HPD said, "The officer's action in this matter was determined to be within compliance with departmental policy and state law."

The issue of police shootings and racial profiling has leaped back into the news with high-profile cases in Chicago and Minneapolis.

The Houston demonstrations echoed the outrage in Chicago over the release of squad car video showing a white police officer, Jason Van Dyke, shooting an unarmed black man, Laquan McDonald, in October of 2014.

Activists maintain that Baker was racially profiled by Castro, who was working as a security guard at a mall at the time of the shooting.

Castro has said that he believed Baker was "casing some of the establishments" in the shopping center and "reacted indignantly" when Castro accosted him.

Baker eventually ran into an alley behind the mall, according to records, where Castro shot him.

Castro told investigators that Baker charged him, and he shot Baker fatally in the chest.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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