The Houston police officer who hit and killed a man walking
to his barber Dec. 4 sped onto the sidewalk to avoid crashing into another car,
according to details in a crash report.
Michael Wayne Jackson, a 62-year-old laborer who lived with
his brother in Sunnyside, was pronounced dead on scene. The report identified
the driving officer as Orlando Hernandez, a 25-year-old beat cop with fewer
than two years on the force. Ofc. Anthony Aranda, 25, was in the cruiser's
passenger seat. The two were automatically placed on three days' administrative
duty but have since been listed as active duty, Houston Police Department
spokesperson Jodi Silva said Wednesday. Silva declined to answer if either
officer was back behind the wheel of a patrol car or was assigned to a desk.
Investigators determined that Hernandez was "traveling
at an unsafe speed" westbound along the 4100 block of Reed Road that
Saturday evening. With lights and sirens activated, the pair was rushing to
help fellow officers detain five individuals who fled from their car on foot
after a short pursuit. As Hernandez approached the intersection of Scott
Street, he encountered stopped traffic, according to the report.
Investigators said Hernandez "performed a faulty
evasive action" by driving onto the sidewalk to avoid colliding with a
car. He hit Jackson from behind, throwing the 6-foot, 195-pound man nearly 60
feet. The cruiser continued into an adjacent parking lot and stopped after
crashing into a Dumpster. It is not noted whether Hernandez had control of the
cruiser by the time it hit the bin.
"I need HFD here," Hernandez told dispatchers at
5:41 p.m., according to archived police radio traffic. "I just got wrecked
out, uh, Scott and Reed. One male patient is going to be knocked unconscious,
not breathing, uh, bleeding from the head."
Paramedics with the Houston Fire Department rushed to the
scene and pronounced Jackson dead. An autopsy from the Harris County Institute
of Forensic Sciences determined Jackson died from "multiple blunt force
injuries." His manner of death was determined to be an accident.
Hernandez and Aranda declined to give statements to
investigators for the crash report, which was filed by an officer in HPD's
vehicular crimes division. Hernandez was not tested for alcohol or drugs, it
was noted in the report.
"It looks like to me, maybe the guys couldn't drive
that well," Jackson's adult brother Timothy Jackson said in the days following
the collision. "They just weren't ready. Their skill level in pursuits
maybe wasn't that good, because they came out of the street onto the sidewalk.
They put anybody that's on the sidewalk in danger."
At a press briefing on the night of the collision, HPD
Executive Asst. Chief Larry Satterwhite and prosecutor Sean Teare each
maintained that the officers were en route to a "volatile" call.
"The officers were responding to a violent
felony," Teare said. "That's something we're going to take into
account. We're looking at all of this. This is not a normal crash. A normal
crash in situations like this would probably constitute different charges than
we're even going to think about in this case."
A grand jury will decide if the officers are charged. That
process could take weeks, Teare said. He did not explain on potential charges.
The late Jackson's car broke down a few months ago, forcing
him to walk nearly everywhere, take the bus, or catch occasional rides to work
from his brother.
"He was always making jokes," Timothy said of his
brother. "He was real sociable like that. He liked to try to sing a little
bit. He was proud of a lot of people he's met, musicians and so forth. He knew
B.B. King. That's who he was. He was a happy person."
HPD has not yet returned a request made Wednesday for
department data that shows how many officers have been involved in collisions
that left someone dead or seriously injured. In 2019, another HPD officer
crashed into a pedestrian during a pursuit. The victim in that case was