The mother of Jalen Randle, who was shot and killed by a Houston police officer last year, vowed to keep seeking justice after a grand jury declined Wednesday to bring criminal charges in the high-profile case.
The grand jury issued a “no bill” decision in the case of Houston Police Department Officer Shane Privette, finding probable cause does not exist for criminal charges, the Harris County District Attorney’s Office confirmed.
Privette, who is white, fatally shot Randle, a 29-year-old unarmed Black man, following a brief car chase in April 2022. Randle’s family and social justice advocates have called for Privette’s firing and prosecution, while a police union spokesperson has said Privette pulled the trigger believing Randle had a gun in his hand.
A different Harris County grand jury previously decided to take no action against Privette in April, prompting District Attorney Kim Ogg’s office to make the second grand jury presentation that ended Wednesday.
“The justice system failed us today,” Randle’s mother, Tiffany Rachal, said Wednesday. “And I’m not happy. I’m not happy about the system. So what’s next? I’m not sure. … I know it’s not over. I can tell you that.”
Houston police have released body-worn camera footage of the fatal encounter, which began with officers attempting to serve a warrant for Randle’s arrest in the Pleasantville neighborhood on the city’s east side.
After a short car chase, Randle stepped out of the passenger side of an SUV. As Randle stood outside the SUV, Privette got out of his vehicle, shouted “let me see your hands” and shot Randle once in the neck within the span of two seconds.
Family members noted Randle was not holding a weapon in his hands when he was shot.
Houston police officials said Randle had a bag containing a gun in his hands when Privette shot him. Houston Police Officers’ Union President Doug Griffith has said Privette believed the backpack was a gun. Privette’s body camera video does not clearly show the officer’s line of sight on Randle at the moment of the shooting.
Police are legally justified in using deadly force if they reasonably believe there is an imminent threat of serious harm or death to themselves or others, according to Houston Police Department policy and federal legal precedent.
At the time, Randle was being sought on a charge of aggravated assault of a family member and other charges.
Privette previously faced a grand jury in 2017, when he was indicted on a charge of aggravated assault by a public servant. The case stemmed from Privette’s arrest of a man who suffered facial injuries during the encounter. Prosecutors later dropped the case after presenting new evidence to a second grand jury, which found Privette should not be charged.
In the 18 months since the shooting, Randle’s family has called for accountability in the Houston native’s death. However, Houston police leaders have not criticized Privette’s actions or announced any discipline against the officer. Privette is back on active duty, a department spokesperson said Wednesday.
Rachal sat on a bench outside the courthouse Wednesday afternoon, weeping after the decision was announced. She said hours later that she is worried about Privette’s return to active duty.
“What if he does it again?” Rachal said. “Because he’s going to do it again. He keeps getting off and off. When is it going to end?”
Griffith, the police union president, did not immediately return a message seeking comment Wednesday. In multiple interviews over the past year and a half, Griffith has argued the shooting was justified, emphasizing that Randle escalated the situation by fleeing from police and carrying objects in his hands when confronted by officers.
Rachal said the stop-and-start grand jury process was difficult for family members. They waited for hours to hear the decision, only to learn about it at the same time as a television news crew.
One of the family members who waited for part of the day was Randle’s young daughter, according to Melina Abdullah, an organizer with Black Lives Matter Grassroots.
“Jalen’s daughter was here earlier. We’ve got to remember what that means that his 7-year-old daughter grows up without her father, who was such an important part of her life,” Abdullah said.
Harris County prosecutors said it is their policy to present cases of police shootings to a grand jury to determine whether probable cause exists for filing criminal charges. Nine of 12 jurors must find probable cause to issue an indictment.
“This process ensures that all such cases are subject to community review at the grand jury and, if necessary, trial level,” the Harris County District Attorney’s Office said in a statement Wednesday. “Our office respects the decision of the grand jury in this and every case.”
The secretive grand jury process frustrated Rachal, who said she has been able to gather little information in the case besides the body-worn camera videos released to the public. Her family still wants to know whether Privette had more allegations of misconduct in his past, she said.
Rachal said she had worried from the start that prosecutors would not pursue charges aggressively enough because of their close relationship with the police department on other cases.
“Why would I think that they would be on my side? Or why would I think that they would fight for the rights of my child?” she said. “The police, the prosecutors, the lawyers – they all talk.”