On Thursday, Reverend Jesse Jackson Sr. spoke out about the fatal shooting of 29-year-old Jalen Randle last month by a Houston cop with a troubled history.
In an interview with The Daily Beast, Jackson Sr. compared the killing to other high-profile deaths of Black Americans at the hands of police—and specifically blasted the silence of local political figures like U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX).
“People like Cruz drive the environment in which it happened. It’s happening in Texas and he has nothing to say,” said Jackson Sr., comparing it to the silence of the right during apartheid. “These patterns keep on popping up.”
A spokesperson for Cruz did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
According to police accounts, Randle—who was wanted on three felony warrants—was shot by Houston Police Officer Shane Privette on April 27 after exiting a vehicle that a narcotics team had to forcibly stop in order to arrest him. Authorities have not said Randle had a weapon in his hand, but rather that a gun was found in a bag he was holding at the time of the shooting.
On Wednesday, the Randle family and their lawyers announced that an independent autopsy, a copy of which was obtained by The Daily Beast, concluded that Randle had been shot from behind, in the neck. An official autopsy has not yet been released, and the Harris County medical examiner’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
A spokesperson for the Houston Police Department referred The Daily Beast to past statements in which they confirmed ongoing investigations of the incident but could not comment further.
On Thursday, Jackson Sr. told The Daily Beast that he planned to speak with Randle’s mother, Tiffany Rachal. For her part, Rachal previously told The Daily Beast, “Was he perfect? No. But he didn’t deserve to be killed.”
Randle also left behind a five-year-old daughter.
Privette, the officer who shot Randle, has been accused of police misconduct in the past. In 2017, he was charged with aggravated assault by a public servant, but the grand jury eventually dropped the charges. The incident involved a man who sustained a busted eye socket and bruises to his face, as the Houston Chronicle reported.
“We’re going to take this to court and let the people decide,” said Jackson Sr. “This police [officer] has a bad record already.”
Houston Police Union President Douglas Griffith, who said he had been authorized to speak for Privette, staunchly defended the cop as an exemplary public servant.
“He does not have a bad record. There’s nothing on his record, zero,” Griffith told The Daily Beast. “So that is, again, [Jackson] obviously doesn’t know anything about the facts of the case.” (A Houston police spokesperson said they were not able to comment on personnel records.)
Griffith previously suggested to The Daily Beast that if Randle had complied with police orders, he would still be alive.
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Along with the family and their lawyers, Jackson Sr.’s advocacy group, the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, has called for local cops to release body-cam footage of the incident by the two-year anniversary of George Floyd’s murder on May 25. Floyd grew up in Houston.
In the interview, Jackson Sr. recalled other shootings of Black men by police, such as the killing of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald in Chicago. McDonald was shot 16 times by white cop Jason Van Dyke, who was recently freed from prison after serving a little over three years for the murder. He and other officers were accused of lying about the 2014 incident in a cover-up that eventually ensnared the administration of Democratic Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
The Council on Criminal Justice Task Force on Policing estimates that roughly 1,000 Americans are killed by police each year, and Black people are four times more likely than white people to be shot by cops.
“We must fight this thing at every level,” Jackson said.