Jordan Baker Hearing – February 2, 2021, 1 pm Eastern
Transcript: Hearing on the Case of Jordan Baker
- Rapporteur Ria Julien
- Commissioner Prof Mireille Fanon-Mendes-France
- Ms. Janet Baker, the mother of Jordan Baker
- Mr. David Owens, attorney for the Baker family
- Mr. Billy J. Mills attorney for the Baker family
Ria Julien 00:00
Welcome to the hearings of the International Commission of Inquiry on systemic racist police violence against people of African descent in the United States. These hearings are a process by which witnesses can present accounts of the unjustified killings and maimings of Black people by police officers in the United States before an international panel of human rights experts. We now begin the hearing in the case of Jordan Baker. My name is Ria Julien and I am the rapporteur for this hearing. Presiding over the hearing today is Commissioner Mireille Fanon-Mendes-France of France. The witnesses in this hearing are attorneys, Billy J. Mills, and David Owens, also an attorney, and the mother of Jordan Baker, Janet Baker. There will be 50 minutes for this hearing. Witnesses will testify followed by a period of questions from commissioners, I will call time at the 30 minute mark and the 45 minute mark, please excuse my interruptions, Commissioner Fanon-Mendes-France I now present to you at your first witness. And indeed, I will swear all the witnesses at this time. Attorney, David Owens. Please, can you please confirm your name?
David Owens 01:28
Yes, this is David Owens.
Ria Julien 01:31
Do you promise that your testimony to the Commission of Inquiry will be true to the best of your knowledge?
David Owens 01:37
Ria Julien 01:39
Okay, Attorney Billy J. Mills, please confirm your name.
Billy Mills 01:44
My name is William Joseph Mills or Billy Joe Mills.
Ria Julien 01:48
Do you promise that your testimony to the Commission of Inquiry will be true to the best of your knowledge and belief?
Billy Mills 01:54
Yes, I do.
Ria Julien 01:56
Ms. Janet Baker, please confirm your name.
Janet Baker 02:00
Ria Julien 02:02
Do you promise that your testimony to the Commission of Inquiry will be true to the best of your knowledge and belief?
Janet Baker 02:08
Ria Julien 02:10
Very good. You may begin.
David Owens 02:14
This is David Owens. And first off, it’s just an honor to be able to be here and to be to present this testimony to shed light on on the death of Jordan Baker by Houston Police Officer Castro as a result of the failed broken policies of the Houston Police Department. And one of the things that is this commission is is designed to do is to look at systemic racist police violence on people of African descent. And I think in some ways, there’s no better case or stronger case, given the way that the the litigation happened with respect to Jordan Baker, and it’s an honor to be able to be here with Jordan’s mom, Janet, and I have represented this family for so long since Jordan was killed in January of 2014. And so I wanted to just sort of begin by painting the scene for what, what took place. And because this inquiry is so systemic, I do think it’s really important and incumbent on me to emphasize that the the initial targeting of Jordan Baker happened due to his race. And our lawsuit in, proceeded, we presented data, we presented some stuff somewhat, some of which I’ll summarize here about the fact that he was initially stopped. But the courts said that you don’t have a legal claim, based upon that under what’s called our equal protection clause in the United States, because you cannot prove that other people were treated differently. Even though the police officer admits that part of the reason that he stopped Jordan Baker was because of his race. And so I want to emphasize that at the beginning, even though we’re focusing on violence and deadly police violence and shooting and killing people, it was preceded here. as it has been again and again, by an officer’s decision that is based upon the race of the person.
And again, something we’ve seen with many Black men, what he was wearing a hooded sweatshirt. And so that’s just something to frame this before we to keep in the background, I think before we go into what happened. So to briefly summarize, Jordan Baker was shot and killed by a Houston Police Department officer named Juventino Castro in on January 16 2014. Now the shooting happened at sort of a strip mall center where there’s a bunch of grocery stores and businesses and just a couple blocks from Jordan’s home. It was a winter evening and he was on his bicycle and rode through the parking lot of the strip mall and the officer who was there working in overtime shift — that’s what Houston calls it — but he was doing private security under the guise of being a Houston Police Department officer for the private owners of the strip mall. Without getting into technicalities, as soon as officer Castro interacted with Jordan Baker, Texas law provides that he was still acting under the full authority of the city of Houston. And as a police department officer, even though he was off duty technically. And even though he was in his own personal police car, not a police cruiser or something like this. The story goes as follows: This officer Castro had been, his and was retained by the private security company to do to do this work because they were concerned about a number of armed robberies that have happened in the area by often Black men in groups wearing hooded sweatshirts with guns and they would pull up multiple of them driving. And this had been going on in the neighborhood. And so that’s why Castro’s there.
Jordan Baker comes riding by on his bicycle. And officer Castro says immediately, I thought Jordan Baker was casing the joint, and casing the joint being Little Caesars. And so before we go into this, I want to just give folks sort of a top down view of what the strip mall looks like. And so if I, if I hopefully will do this correctly, and share my screen share with you all.
Okay, so here is an above view from Google maps of the strip mall center. And so I want to describe this before we show the video so that folks can know what you’re seeing. So this is Little York road right here and is a very big major road. And this right here, this over here, and the picture is old, but there is there is a biking trail there and basically a bike path over here. And right here on the corner is a Little Caesars pizza place. And at the time this incident happens officer Castro is parked somewhere in this vicinity, just sort of looking out at the entire parking lot. And what you’ll see in the video, is you’ll see Jordan Baker come riding in on his bicycle from here and go past the Little Caesars. Now one officer Castro says is that he thought Jordan Baker was casing the joint because he was an armed robber on a bicycle. And despite the fact that Jordan was wearing flip flops when he was riding by. The officer says that Jordan comes down after supposedly casing the joint and sees sees him in an unmarked car somehow knows he’s a police officer and then rides away. Then what you’ll see is it kind of goes out of scene for a minute is, is you will see Jordan Baker resume riding his bike over here along the edge. And there’s a hedge here. And out of nowhere, you will see officer Castro in his car come very close to ramming Jordan, and it’s unclear from the quality of the video that we have, whether or not he was actually struck or whether or not he caused him to fall. And then over here in this in this area for probably a minute long. We can’t really tell what’s going on and it’s of course disputed what was happening. But what a few things that are undisputed that happened after the over here is that Jordan Baker no longer had his hooded sweatshirt on. He was completely unclothed on the top. And you can see in the video eventually emerge, a very, very slow walk between the officer stepping towards Jordan and Jordan stepping back backwards, sort of backing up like this.
And again, all Jordan has done at this point is ride his bike through a parking lot. At some point here, Officer Castro points his firearm at Jordan. And upon being having a gun pointed in his face. He does what any reasonable person would have done. He would have ran away. And so you will see from roughly over here, Jordan begin to run this way, back to the back of the building, towards this bayou. And of course, he can just continue running here. And this also goes around the back. If he wanted to get home that way, he’s only a few blocks from his home. And so that’s kind of the scene. And what officer Castro says is he as he eventually starts to chase Jordan Baker, he gets behind the, the bayou over here in this in this region. And what he says is that Jordan is on this grass part over here, when the officer points a gun at him, and starts just running at him, even though he’s got no shirt on, even though the cop is pointing a gun directly at him. And he says, he starts charging at the officer and puts his hand close to his waistband. And then so the officer shoots. That’s the officer’s account. And that’s, there’s no video here. This is not like a lot of the incidences that you’ve probably dealt with this in this commission about.
Well, how do we acknowledge what happened as true here? Well, we had to put it together, and based upon a little snippets of video, but also other forensic evidence on the ground. And what I’ll tell you, I won’t bury the lead, is that officer Castro says Jordan Baker was on the grass up here, and came charging out him down here. The problem is that all of the blood from where Jordan continued to run was along this wall here. And he eventually fell and succumbed to his injuries here. And our position in our litigation was that Jordan slipped and fell, and then continued to run as he got up, and then the officer shot him in the side. And so that’s, that’s the general framework. So I’ll go ahead and show folks the video of that I sort of just previewed for you that relates to this, that relates to this as well. And so just you, you’ll just have to excuse me, technologically, for again.
Okay, and so now, this video, the perspective in this video is from a cell phone wireless store that is directly next to the Little Caesars. So if you if you see this truck, this truck is basically directly in front of the Little Caesars. Now remember, this is the Little Caesars that officer Castro says Jordan was casing when he ran, rode by on his bike, you’ll see Jordan go by, they’ll go off screen for a minute, and then you’ll see them and I’ll just continue to narrate from from there. But this is all the video that we have of this. And so it’s very, very quickly at the beginning, you’ll see Jordan appear from the top left of your screen. And he’s right there on his bicycle going by. So that’s what it looks like for a Houston Police Department officer, a Black person on a bicycle to be casing a joint for an armed robbery.
And you’ll see up in this area that we had, there’s Jordan still riding his bike. And then there’s the officer. And who knows what happens here. During this period of time the officer gets out of his car, you can kind of make do with that I’ve watched this more times than I’d like to admit, just try to try to figure out what happened. And you can sort of see some things. And what you’re about to see is over here in this zone is that Jordan Baker is backing away from the officer very very, very slowly. And the officer you’ll see his blue shirt come into frame. And then for moments they just completely stopped, something is happening, some kind of a conversation is happening between them. And at this point, that’s when Jordan begins to run after the officer pointed his firearm at him. So you can see. And I’ll stop it right here that you can sort of vaguely see a blue shirt and black pants. That’s Jordan as he comes into frame and they’re just backing up slowly, slowly, slowly, slowly and you can see it ever so slightly, and then there’s the stop some kind of a showdown.
Now that’s an extremely long period of time. I don’t know if you thought that in that moment, but we’re there face to face. Jordan has no shirt on. The officer pulls a gun on him and Jordan takes off. The officer starts to walk by back to his car and then he decides he’s at the back and chases him behind the building. Now The officer claims that, you know, behind this building Jordan charged at him, charged directly at him. He stopped, the officer pointed a gun at him, like a second, or this would have been the third time. And he charged directly at him and his hands got near his waistband. The problem with this is that it’s impossible, is because of the bullet trajectories of the wound, right. And so this is not a picture, this is something in fact, what I’m about to show you is a picture that came from the officer’s own doctors, right, this is not something we made up or did a spin on, this is their own image. And what you can see is that let me go back to this is that there is a very sharp angle from left to right. Now, if somebody is running directly at you charging you on directly, it isn’t. There’s a dowel here that goes from left to right through and it went through and perforated both of Jordans lungs. And that angle is obviously impossible if somebody’s running directly at you. Um, but the city of Houston didn’t have a problem with this. And so we were able to start challenging this. And I’m sorry for the rapid increase. There is that.
So if you zoom in back to where this happened, this is the area and we have is kind of gives you a better perspective. So where do you see these police cars over here? This is where officer Castro says Jordan Baker was. He could have continued to run home. But instead he says that when the officer pulled a gun on him the second time, he charged directly at him. And this we contended was not true. Based upon — And this is, and this this, what you’re seeing right here is is the, is the crime scene investigators from the Houston Police Department what they did on the first, the night that this happened. So the number one here is a bullet casing. And so what what happens generally with bullet casings is they go outward into the right when officers fire them. So this is sort of the reference point for the incident. Officer Castro says that Jordan Baker was charging him from up here. The only problem is all of the physical evidence, blood spatter, all of this is over here. There’s nothing in between these two places at all. And so no, it didn’t happen like that. He wasn’t charging at him from the grassy bayou, he was trying to run away. And so this is a reconstruction that we had our experts do. And I’ve I provided the whole, the entire expert report to sort of illustrate how this happened. And of course, if somebody had fallen and tripped and was looking behind them to see if the officer’s still firing, still firing at them. That oops, excuse me. That is how you get a bullet trajectory like this. And I’ll just go to it quickly. And the, our expert reports lays this whole thing out, but it’s the way the way that, excuse me. It is like that. So there is this thing here and Jordan Baker, we contend he was continuing to run away. So that’s probably more detailed about this shooting than you’ve probably received in other cases, because there’s no video here.
And there’s no video of the shooting and the biggest one of the biggest problems when confronting systemic police violence in the United States is confronting police narrative. So what happens in the immediate aftermath of the shooting? Well, Officer Castro handcuffs Jordan and leaves him to die on the ground. He gets in his police car and waits for his attorney to show up. Then homicide investigators are calling from the city of Houston. The prosecutor’s office from Harris County are called, the internal affairs from the Houston Police Department. They all show up. Officer Castro has a conversation with his attorney about what he wants to say happened. And then they do a walkthrough of the entire thing, what’s called a ring. And then they go through and they say this they say this is how this happened. And that’s the only reason we know that Castro decided to tell what we have contended is a lie about him coming off the bayou. So in our case, our case and the evidence we put together about officer Castro that came from the other police officers that he told that night. And the reason and we’ve seen this again, and again, in a number of cases, is that when the police officers make up lies based upon what they think they want to say, happen, reaching for the waistband, oh, he was charging directly at me, this is an incident of self defense, they don’t actually have all the forensic evidence. So they don’t actually know that it’s going to completely obliterate their story at a later date. It doesn’t matter, though, it doesn’t matter. Because as a matter of the city of Houston, Officer Castro was attacked, he was charged that somebody had their hand at night near a waistband.
And so the shooting was deemed justified, again, this, this inquiry is about systemic violence against Black people in particular. And this is why I think that the Commission should really evaluate in this particular case. So what we did here, as it relates to this lawsuit, was we saw significant. The paramedics were called to the scene, yes. But he was pronounced deceased on the scene, and, and received no medical attention, as after that, and, you know, to get to the question, there what, that there was a question as as to whether or not the paramedics were called, they were, but Castro had left Jordan Baker lying on his face, double handcuffed behind his back. He didn’t provide any aid whatsoever. He didn’t even attempt it, didn’t think about. And so, I don’t there, and so as a consequence, we have tons and tons of pictures of the crime scene with Jordans body there, he was already deceased. So we’re gonna process the scene with his body laying there, there’s no attempt to save him. Even unhandcuff him. So as I was trying to point out, it’s the systemic nature of this. Right. And one of the things that that that is so hard to do, when you represent or when you are the family of somebody who’s been killed by the police is, well, how do I prove that this wasn’t just an isolated event, and we have hundreds and hundreds of them and are, are, proliferated with all of these images.
But as a matter of law, the legal standards are really hard to find municipalities, like the city of Houston accountable. To do so you have to basically show that the incident that happened was the result of a pattern of practice of the department. So how do we do that? We looked at all of the other police shootings that happened in a three year period, a three year period before this one. And you know what, there were more than 200 in three years. So when we looked at them further, we found out some really, really important things. So we had a statistician expert, we looked at all of these cases, and we prepared our own data set of of all of the other instances that happened in in Houston before this. And the answer, I had this one moment. And so we so we, we had to hire a statistician to, to go through and code, every single one of the 200 shootings that happened in the three years before, based upon the day, the time, the race, the gender, and the justifications given for why this person was shot. And so this is boring numbers, but we put this together. And as as a result, our stats expert produced a report about the frequency of which people were shot in Houston over this three year period. And so as I mentioned, there were 227 instances, we, we broke them down by race. And so just the number sheer number is, is for Black folks. It’s half, half of the shootings. Now, Houston is not half Black, not by a mile. And so we know that there’s a problem here, but things get even worse. And just because of the standards for proving these things, under federal law are so exacting, we had to dig deeper, this wouldn’t have been enough.
So we had to look again. Well, what is the justification given for the type for the reason for shooting? Okay, well, somebody fired out a weapon about a police officer, probably most people think that if somebody shot a police officer with a gun, okay, that’s sufficient for you to use deadly force. But we looked at all of these things like were you seen with the gun? was a weapon raised? was a weapon pointed? Or do we believe you were reaching for something? Were you reaching for your waistband into your pocket or something like that? So we took a second set of data and aggregated that to see what kind of patterns would we find? So 71% of the situations, or 71 of the 200 instances where somebody attacked the officer, they claimed, another 78, where they drew or revealed a weapon. And then we have 50 instances where a suspect was supposedly have to made a gesture like Jordan did, allegedly, of reaching for his waistband or something like that. And you know, what we found is that overwhelmingly, when this gesture thing was used, suspects were unarmed. Overwhelmingly, 71% of the time the suspects were unarmed, and you want to know what we found even further. You want to know the number of white people shot or killed by the police in Houston based upon a claim that they were, that they had gestured: Zero. It was all Black and Latino suspects, gestured, or you gestured, your hand was close to your waistband.
And so the commission, we provided all of this data, but the conclusion here is really, really specific. When we look at the times where a suspect was unarmed, 54% of the time, the officer recorded this as something that suspect gestured, which is different than what happened when somebody was armed. That’s statistically significant. But when we look at these things, this is, this justification is only used when suspects were Black, and Hispanic. And so what our expert recorded was, this is something that’s called threat perception failure. And this, I’m sure the Commission has heard a lot about implicit bias, and other things like that. And threat perception failure is another way of illustrating in stark terms that when officers see Black people, they view them as threatening, they are criminalized based upon their race. They’re criminalized based upon their gender for Black men in particular. You’re presumed to be dangerous, I can go back to the video. In my humble opinion, I think it’s completely absurd. That, that an officer would claim that I thought that this guy was casing this joint when he rode his bicycle by like that, it is completely absurd. And that justification can only be accepted. If you presume that a Black man on a bicycle wearing a hoodie is inherently dangerous. Our bodies are maimed, our bodies are wounded. And these interactions where he was almost ran over by a car happened because of a presumption. Now the last thing I’ll mention about this is, as I mentioned, you know, we said that the initial stop of Jordan was illegal. And we went back, and we said, we said, look, we we got all of this data from the city of Houston about police stops, how frequently are Black people stopped relative to others, to show this systemic thing that we had to had to prove to prove our our case, right. So So we looked at the stop data, the demographic data, right, so the percentage of the population for Black folks in Houston for the years, we were looking at about 23%.
Right, the percentage of stops 32%. And then things get even worse. So what racial profiling statisticians and scholars look at is a disparity index. And and it’s a metric used to sort of determine how frequently or how infrequently based upon the relationship to your population, proportional population and other things. And so what you see when we looked at the numbers was that Black people were way, way, way, way, way more likely to be stopped on the initial instance. Now, again, we weren’t allowed. And also Black people were more likely to be arrested, they were more likely to also have been stopped, where there was no evidence of contraband found. What this proves, we claimed was that there is a systemic problem here. The court didn’t allow us to proceed with this claim, because it said, well, you have to show that officer Castro himself didn’t stop other Black people wearing hooded sweatshirts on his, on their bicycle that evening, essentially, you have to do a comparative analysis. And I said, That’s bananas. Because what we all know truthfully is going on on the ground is that the initial stop happened because Jordan was Black. The initial provocation of officer Castro and pointing a weapon at somebody who was unarmed, directly in their face happened because he was Black.
Ria Julien 30:50
Attorney Owens, I just would like to call time at, we’re at 30 minutes in the in the hearing. And so however, if you’d like to continue, or there –
David Owens 31:00
That was literally my penultimate sentence, so So I do think it’s incumbent upon the commission to consider Jordan’s case and for remember this, to remember this thing is that – is this – in America, the stories of Black and brown folk are not believed. People have been saying this for years, there’s so many more Jordan Bakers, there’s so many other people, we don’t have video in all of the situations. And so now people see, they see Walter Scott running on the video, they see George Floyd, they’re like, Oh my god, this is really how bad it is. And that just reminds us that when we say that we’ve been victimized and hurt, that no one believes us because our word isn’t sufficient. But if you dig into these things, these systematic problems exist, even when there is not video, even when we don’t have somebody or some body camera or thing like that. And so the big thing to remember for this commission is that you’re looking at a tip of, the tip of the tip of, the tip of the iceberg of Black suffering, and of Black pain and abuse by the police that happens every day. And so it has been an honor to present before this commission. And I thank you for your time. And I just I’m so proud of my client, Janet Baker, because she has suffered unspeakable pain that continues. And I really think that her words are far more important than mine. Thank you.
Ria Julien 32:41
Thank you, Attorney Owens. Ms. Baker, thank you for being with us today. As I have already sworn you in, so you may proceed now.
Janet Baker 32:52
Thank you. Thank you so much for having me. I thank you guys for having this panel. Because David has mentioned this is happening in our country so much to where it’s it’s as if it doesn’t exist. I watched a movie and it was called The Usual Suspects. And there was a line by one of the actors. He said the biggest trick the devil ever played, was to convince the world that he didn’t exist. The way that Jordan was treated and so many others, it’s, it’s a heinous act that is always covered up, the way it was covered up in plain sight on that night. I’d like to, deal with profound information and digital scenarios about what could have happened. I would really like to take a moment because so much since the incident, since the tragic course of events took place, Jordan was demonized from so many aspects. For one that night, January 16. And forgive me because today is February 2. A couple of weeks ago, we made Jordan’s anniversary on January 16, when he was heinous killed, senseless, senselessly by officer, I rarely say his name, but officer Juventino Castro. And then on Friday, February 5, I should be celebrating his birthday. And it’s just such a painful time right now. But that night in 2014, on January 16, he mentioned to me, we spoke on the phone, and he mentioned his plan, everything that Jordan planned.
Ria Julien 34:49
I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I do want to the commission to hear you if you could speak up because I think it’s so important for everyone to hear your testimony.
Janet Baker 34:59
I’m having equipment issues. I’m so sorry. I’ll try to project more.
Ria Julien 35:03
Yeah, we can hear, just a little bit louder. Thank you.
Janet Baker 35:06
Okay. Sure. On January 16, that night, Jordan, just before that night, we had a phone conversation. And he had mentioned that his campus had moved. And he said, Yeah, I conserve fuel. by riding my bike in the area, that’s something he always did. And I hate, I have to keep explaining, like people say, why was he on a bike? Why not be on a bike? He had his car, but it’s three blocks away from home. There was a park across the street, he would take his son, which was Jordan, little Jordan, his life. Jordan was an amazing father. And I hate saying was, because the things that he instilled in his son was amazing, but it’s that huge void. I haven’t been taken away. But that night, he said, Yeah, the campus moved, I’m, you know, riding around. And the last thing you said, I said, well, Jordan, it seems like you have everything worked out. He told me about the wellness program. And other things. The CNC machinist is making more of an hourly rates just to better his life for his son. And I say, sounds like you’ve got it all worked out. He said, Yeah, I could tell he was a little tired. And in my mind, I said, oh we’ll just go out to dinner that weekend. And I didn’t realize that would be the last conversation we had. But he did say to me, I love you. And I said, I love you too. It was just so bizarre. So the next day, he went to my sister’s and he said, Yeah, I don’t have cable. So I’m gonna watch her cable, there’s a show and when I watch it, silly MTV show, and I laugh. And he told me the concept. And he said, I’m gonna watch that. She went to take my parents to that, Alice’s, and she said, she looked back, he was still there.
And he was at the time on his email, you know, just normal things. And she said, Oh, well, I’ll see him when I get back. So he left and obviously, he drove home. And maybe I’m still trying to piece this together, because there’s food in the microwave. And he was really particular like to be health conscious. And I’m assuming something he needed, in addition to whatever his meal was, so he went to that strip center, which he had every right to go three blocks away from home. So hearing that, oh, the the story, the way that they spin the story was, I was in fear for my life or a scuffle ensued. Jordan had no defensive wounds on his hands. So was it a scuffle? Or was he protecting himself? If I said, Well, why did he run? If I’m in fear, who was truly in fear, the officer says, I was in fear for my life. Jordan, obviously was running for his life. And to chase him into a trash strewn alleyway, and then you murder him. And you lay him down in trash and proceed to hog tie him and watch him bleed out.
I’m so sorry. So it’s seven years, but it feels like it feels like seven minutes ago I just got the information. Constantly reliving. And just wanting to understand, how could this have happened? That’s the most, that’s the biggest question that I have. Trying to explain to his son and trying to make the right decision and trying to be a voice for Jordan. Again, my biggest thing is to make not allow them to dehumanize him even further. He was chased down like prey. And then the spin happens. I was in fear for my life, reaching for a waistband and I am going to the DA because I felt when I heard this. My sister works for the police department. They never asked her any questions. He was here last, so the whole grand jury seeing the whole process seems to be business as usual, and its it’s designed to protect the officer because he was what I learned, no billed, and no charges were filed. And that “I was in fear for my life” was enough for him to Get Away with Murder. And I can’t, for the life of me understand why. This Friday, even in this crazy time, I was always thinking, wow, quarantine with Jordan would have been amazing. Because he was — everybody always say, Oh, my kids, you know, he was my friend, I had the the extreme pleasure of – I liked as a human being. You love your child, but he had a great personality a great future. That was just brought down, kind individual, an amazing father. But again, my question is how, again, as David mentioned, implicit biases that occur. It allows it to keep happening. And I’m glad we’re having this panel, because maybe collectively, the individual pain will prove to be something that will make it a better life, a better quality of life. Because Jordan should have been able to go to that strip center three blocks away, and make it back home. And his son, I still don’t have, I tried, I tried, I tried, I’m trying to say, to cancel all the things that were stated about him I just hope and pray. I’m constantly praying that change will come. And the effective change will allow people like Jordan to be able to live freely and truly live. Him be able to make a simple bicycle ride. I’m sorry. Make simple rides and still be able to live a better quality of life. I had so much I wanted to say. I’m so sorry.
David Owens 42:22
There’s nothing to apologize for. You’re so strong.
Janet Baker 42:32
That is it’s always it goes back to why? And how could this have happened? And how do we prevent it from happening again in the future. And my ask is, we hear the things in Houston. De-escalation training, it’s things that sound good, and it looks good on paper. But ultimately, the accountability, if that ceases, if that never happens, then we won’t get to the point where there will be active change, or things that will protect, I’m speaking specifically for young men of color. And speaking for making things safe for little Jordan, and he wanted — he had school today. And he wanted to prepare something and, I did I wanted to play it by ear. Because anytime we bring this up, I’m a mess. I can only imagine how he feels. Thinking about it with the anniversary so close. And then his dad’s birthday coming up. I don’t know. And David, if you wanted to chime in I know you were getting to a close if you really wanted to add something to further speak on Jordan’s behalf.
David Owens 44:01
Yeah, thanks, Janet. I guess the only thing to say we’re not the only thing but as you can tell there’s a this is a really painful, painful situation. And one thing that you know you don’t see or hear when there’s big rallies or when there’s video or there’s people is what happens. Whenever one is gone, when the media is gone. And you’ve got to make a decision with your grandson about how to talk to him about the world or about what’s happening here and it’s the burden of this systemic police violence. It falls again and again on Black women and it falls on our families and it is something that is not even being discussed. You know, we, as I put it in a letter to the commission, we settled our lawsuit, but how do you ask? How do you ask a mother or sister or brother, to determine an economic value of the life of somebody that they love? It’s, it’s, it’s that itself is, the form of justice is at best incomplete. I, I did want to submit and meant to submit some, some pictures of Jordan and his son, and Janet, because I think they are important. And I thought, I looked back, they’re not included in my email, but it’s just, it’s, you need to remember that this is, this is what this is about. This is about family. And this family was deprived of family for something as simple as riding a bike. You know, that’s, that’s, and the harm continues. So, I don’t know if you all have any questions or, or thoughts or, you know, we’ve I’ve submitted a lot of written material, because I wanted there to be a basis for this. But the end is, this is a story of a person who did something really simple, gotten on their bicycle, or a hooded sweatshirt, and went, you know, like, ran out for an errand with food in the microwave. And that shouldn’t be a death sentence.
Ria Julien 46:35
Thank you, Attorney Owens and thank you again, Ms. Baker for being with us. And I know, it was not easy to share your testimony with us today. But I do think, you know, for us to hear, it is so important and impactful on everybody who was here listening to you today. I just want to mention, we have about five minutes left in the hearing now. And I know that Commissioner Fanon-Mendes-France will have some questions that you’d like to put to to the witnesses.
Janet Baker 47:05
David Owens 47:09
Oh you’re on mute. No no, the commissioner.
Mireille Fanon-Mendes-France 47:19
Thank you, Mrs. Baker, for your testimony, for very moving testimony. And I understand absolutely, well, you all know, and there’s a need of justice. And thank you. attorney Owens, for your work and your explanation. I have a one question. Because of time, you you. You mentioned systemic violence, and, and Jordan was killed due to his race. And I am wondering if if you, you explained systemic police violence, but this system and violence is coming from structural racism. And that is that is one of point we raised when we because I was for in some years ago, I was an expert at the UN for people of African descent, and we went in US for a country visit. And what we, what we see it’s a for, they denied denied the issue of racial, racialization. And also people denied this issue. But we need, we need, don’t you think we need to explain this police violence, the systemic police violence, it’s coming from the history of enslavement and this structural racism, on which the US policy is based. And we can see that, for example, in this case of Jordan Baker, when the case is dismissed by the justice, because you can’t prove the issue of this systemic oppression based on racialization. Because the justice don’t agree about that. And I am wondering, what do you think, oh, we can critically raise this question of structural racism, to go back to structural racism to explain the systemic police violence?
David Owens 49:48
Yeah, I think that’s totally a component of it. Right. So when we talk about structural racism, we talked about a phenomenon and the walls that had been erected to, that led us here and how they favor certain groups over another. And it’s true in the history of policing in particular, right? So, so if you look at the history of policing in the United States, in particular, in the south, and in Texas, it was always about violence against Black and Latino, or even Latino is the wrong word, because they’re Mexican folk living in Mexico. But the history of policing is one of inherent violence. And then what happened actually, after the, you know, after the Civil War, and the Jim Crow era was, was the the enactment of specific laws to target poor and Black communities. So that that would be a basis, a justification for the police violence in the first place, right. And so if you see this happening again and again, in the United States, is that you look at policing, it has become violent, and then it hits a fever pitch where people say, we have too much violence and commissions like this, some reforms happen. But you’re absolutely right. No one has sought to undone, undo or address the fact that our very notions about what policing are, and about how police operate with people, about this perception of people as a threat, is completely encoded in in as you put it racialization. And it was done on purpose.
Mireille Fanon-Mendes-France 51:27
Yeah, yeah. Because because in this case, and in your case, also, what some, the race exists or socially, and it’s acting as a regime of power. This is one issue we asked to to raise. And I make my question because regarding what you provide us as a matter here, the complaint, you mentioned, Jordan was not treated as an American citizen, because of regarding the 14th amendment and others. And oh, my question is, is it because to try to understand how to destroy to, to destroy the politics, the politics of impunity, because it’s a politics of impunity based on racialization. As Mrs Baker mentioned, the dehumanization of Jordan, and how are we can address this issue of impunity based on raciallization in order to inverse the process and to take in consideration injustice as, the right to to life and the right to be treated as human?
Ria Julien 53:18
Attorney Owens, I know we just we are over time a little bit, but I do want you to be able to get to the commissioner’s question. I don’t know if you can provide a response in a minute, or if Dallas is under, had been under consent decree or if anything had happened with the statistics you’d put forward?
David Owens 53:40
Well, right. So ou’re right that there, Houston has not been under a consent decree or anything like that. But that these are the types of things that I think, you know, to answer your question, there must be an acknowledgement of the racist origins of policing, and its history. And that’s what we’re trying to bring out. But the second answer, I guess, is a little bit political, which is that the we need this commission to exist. We need politicians who believe that this commission matters. And it’s it’s in elections, where we can have frank conversations about structural racism, because that’s not something that’s really occurred in the United States until maybe this summer. And there must be a recognition that there was an original wrong done, and slavery and discrimination, and that nothing ever undid it. Nothing ever said oh, we’re sorry about that. Instead, what happened was Jim Crow, systematic lynching of Black people in the south, then happens formal segregation, then happen away with things and so there’s never been any redress for the original crime. And until that happens, You know, these issues are gonna lie in the heart of it.
Mireille Fanon-Mendes-France 55:03
I have just a question to Attorney Owens. Where is the case now, is it still pending or is still closed?
David Owens 55:14
So we, we settled the case out of court, after the court, so the judge, and I want to be really clear, we did prevail in a large, large, large way in which no one has ever done in the city of Houston before. And, and because the legal standards for excessive force against a municipality are very high. So the court accepted that. And then the city of Houston said, we don’t want a trial on this, because our issues are so systemic, and have and so we settled the case after that. It was the only thing that we were not allowed to present was the race aspect of it. But as far as the killing itself, and other acts being unjustified, we were allowed to present that.
Mireille Fanon-Mendes-France 56:00
OK, Thank you.
Janet Baker 56:03
Thank you all.
David Owens 56:07
Thank you so much, Janet. You’re so strong.
Mireille Fanon-Mendes-France 56:11
Ria Julien 56:15
This concludes the, the case of Jordan Baker. There will now be a short break. We’ll now have a short break and hearings will resume on the hour. Special thanks again to Ms. Baker for being with us today. Thanks,
Mireille Fanon-Mendes-France 56:32
Thank you, Ms. Baker. Thank you, Attorney Baker. Thank you, Ria.
Janet Baker 56:37
Thank you all