After taking more than 100 days to investigate the shooting death of Daniel Brumley, Fort Worth police have sent the case to the Tarrant County district attorney’s office.
Brumley was killed by Officer Chris Jones after a traffic stop on Jan. 17. The case arrived at the D.A.’s office on May 13, said Larry Moore, chief of the criminal division.
“What comes is the summary of the police investigation, the witness statements, physical evidence that’s been collected, and any forensic testing that’s done,” he said.
The D.A.’s office will meet with the attorney representing Brumley to solicit information about the case, including witness statements. Afterward, the D.A. will present the case to a grand jury to determine if charges will be filed.
“We want the grand jury to have all the information that’s available,” Moore said.
Brumley’s relatives, including his mother, Jessica Castillo, have accused police of dragging their feet on the investigation. They suspect police of concocting a story to try to exonerate Jones while blaming Brumley, and they accuse investigators of showing little interest in talking to witnesses.
“We need an outside investigation instead of the police investigating themselves,” she said. “I’m tired of them throwing my son to the back burner.”
Moore said the D.A.’s office can be counted on to investigate without bias.
“We look at police shootings as we look at any other case,” he said. “We don’t go into the case predisposed to believe if it was justified or not justified. The police department’s take on it might not be that same as our take on it.”
The D.A.’s office is currently behind on cases left over from the previous administration, Moore said. A police shooting from 14 months ago is still waiting to be assigned to D.A. investigators. Four cases involving police shootings are currently in front of the Brumley case, he said
New D.A. Sharen Wilson wants her assistant district attorneys to process cases in 60 to 90 days.
Police accused Brumley, 27, of stabbing a police officer after being pulled over at 4 a.m. on Jan. 17 in the Diamond Hill neighborhood of North Fort Worth.
Witness statements appear to contradict the police version of the shooting (“Blood on Whose Hands?” Feb. 25, 2015).
Jones pulled over Brumley’s 1989 Buick LeSabre after allegedly seeing it run a stop sign at the intersection of N.E. 37th Street and Schwartz Avenue. Police have not released the officer’s name, but witnesses learned of his identity shortly after the shooting.
Police said Jones checked Brumley for outstanding warrants, found three, and asked Brumley to step out of his car and walk to the police vehicle.
“Once at the police vehicle, [Jones] instructed Brumley to place his hands on the hood of the vehicle,” the investigating detective wrote in a search warrant affidavit on Jan. 30. “Brumley faced the hood of the vehicle but refused to place his hands on the hood.”
Two witnesses, who were watching from two different doorsteps nearby, said Jones walked Brumley past the front of the car, the driver’s door, and the back passenger door, and directed him to the back of the car. A witness said she saw no struggle and heard no commotion before four pistol shots rang out. Both witnesses said they had trouble seeing exactly what happened because the rear of the police car was dark.
Police crime scene paint depicted that the struggle occurred at the back of the car.
The police affidavit said Jones placed Brumley’s left hand behind his back and told him to put his right hand on the hood of the police car.
“Brumley refused to comply again and attempted to conceal his right hand,” the affidavit said.
As Jones placed a handcuff on Brumley’s left wrist, Brumley “quickly spun around and attempted to stab [Jones] in his left rib cage area several times with a knife he had concealed in his right hand,” the affidavit said. “A struggle ensued and during the course of this struggle, Brumley stabbed [Jones] multiple times in the leg.”
The officer was wearing a protective vest that prevented the knife from entering his stomach, police said.
Jones fired his pistol four times. The autopsy report showed bullets stuck Brumley in the head, side, and back (“North Side, FWPD at Odds,” April 15, 2015).
Brumley’s attorney, Eloy Sepulveda, questions why Jones didn’t search Brumley or wait for a backup unit to arrive after discovering the warrants. The number of shots and the downward direction of the bullets concern Sepulveda as well. The direction could indicate that Brumley was on the ground when the officer fired. And witnesses have signed statements, which Sepulveda will present to the district attorney, that say that Jones and Brumley walked to the back of the police car just before the shots rang out.
But what most confuses Brumley’s relatives are police statements that say Jones grew suspicious after he approached Brumley’s car window and saw blood on his hands. A detective who investigated the shooting searched Brumley’s car for “property, blood, and DNA evidence of a violent crime committed before Brumley’s encounter” with Jones.
Brumley had been on a long date that evening. The woman he was with said they’d had a quiet evening hanging out with a friend and listening to music before heading back to Brumley’s mother’s house to watch a movie. The night included no violence, no blood, and no problems, she said. Brumley and his date were texting each other during the traffic stop.
The car Brumley was driving belongs to Castillo. After police allowed her to retrieve the car from the impound lot, she took it home, parked it in her driveway, and looked it over from top to bottom.
“There was no blood,” she said. “I have not wiped that car.”
Inside the car she found a large box cutter that Brumley used at work, along with a screwdriver. She never knew of her son to carry a knife. And she wondered how he could have held a knife in his right hand without detection while he was pulled out of his car and led to the back of another vehicle, the police car.
Most of all, she misses her son. Since he’s never coming home, she often sits in the car and thinks about him.
“I sit in it sometimes because that’s where he was,” she said. “I don’t want to clean it. I smell my son. I feel him. That’s the last place he was at.”