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Wichita Falls police officer cleared in fatal shooting

Wichita Falls Police Department
Wichita Falls Police Department
Wichita Falls Police Department

A Wichita Falls police officer has been cleared in the fatal shooting of a man on Gloria Lane, according to an article in yesterday's (Saturday) July 19 Wichita Falls Times Record News newspaper. Chief of Police Manuel Borrego at a news conference Friday said the grand jury turned in a ruling Wednesday of no criminal wrongdoing on the part of Officer Stephen Ginger.

The Chief also revealed at the press conference that the internal affairs investigation conducted by the Wichita Falls Police Department has found the officer didn't violate any procedural or policy rules.

The shooting incident occurred May 14 when Joshua Erin Powell, 22, confronted police officers in the 2000 block of Gloria Lane around 6:30 p.m.

Chief Borrego said Ginger was responding to a domestic violence call prior to the shooting. Ginger had reportedly parked his car not far from the address from which the disturbance call emanated. Powell was wearing Brutus the Bulldog Self-Defense Knuckles at the time he charged Officer Ginger. Borrego said Powell was approximately 3 to 4 feet from the officer when he screamed, "Kill me!"

It was at about this moment that Ginger fired his handgun at Powell. The chief said Ginger fired nine rounds.

Borrego, who has served in the U.S. military in combat duty, further explained that the knuckles were used to attack Officer Ginger. According to state law, the officer had the right to defend himself. Also it is proper for an officer to defend himself according to the WFPD policy. Borrego further said that the knuckles are a prohibited weapon under Texas law.

Borrego also explained at the news conference that the police department tries to give officers a certain amount of discretion as to the appropriate force necessary in a given situation. He further said that if deadly force is used to threaten an officer, then the officer has the right to respond with deadly force.

The top police officer in Wichita Falls also publicized the autopsy results during the press conference. He said that report indicated Powell had alcohol and drugs in his system. The drugs found included hydroxyzine, nordiazepam and chlordiazepoxide.

The Chief also said Powell had a history of mental illness and theorized as to the possibility this was a "suicide by cop" situation. He further said the mental health system is inadequately funded for people to get the help they need.

Ginger was placed on leave following the incident as is normal. He has since been returned to regular duties, according to his boss.

Texas law does provide officers with the right to use deadly force in order to defend themselves if they believe they are in imminent danger of either death or serious bodily injury. Law enforcement officers sometimes have to make split second decisions in their line of work.

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