It took the death of a 28-year-old man and a 93-year-old woman to do it, but a police officer faced some sort of consequences for his actions: he was fired.
Stephen Stem had been on the job for less than two years but managed to kill two people in that time, a remarkable statistic for a police officer in a small town of fewer than 4,500 people that gets about 10 calls a day. In late 2012, Tederalle Satchell, 28, was with a group of people reported to the police for firing a weapon from a car. Stem shot and killed Satchell during a foot pursuit. Satchell was not carrying a weapon when he was shot, though he was before and during the pursuit. Stem was cleared of any wrongdoing by a grand jury and returned to work.
Last Tuesday, Pearlie Golden's nephew called the police after his nonagenarian aunt pulled a gun on him when he wouldn't give her her car keys because she just failed a driving test. The nephew, Roy Jones, told KBTX that Golden had a .38 revolver (it belonged to her deceased husband, who was also a Hearne police officer). Stem arrived and ordered her to put it down, but she refused. Stem shot at her four times, hitting her twice. Jones said Golden fired her weapon twice, but into the ground. The district attorney has not yet confirmed who fired first -- or that Golden fired at all. Stem, for one, told his lawyer that Golden did not shoot.
After a protest, the mayor of Hearne said he would recommend to the city council that Stem be fired. Hearne's attorney advised the same. Yesterday, that council met and voted unanimously to terminate Stem, which was met by an enthusiastic applause from meeting attendees. Stem was not at the meeting, but Satchell's mother was, according to the Bryan-College Station Eagle.
Mayor Ruben Gomez said "it was best for the city of Hearne."
Stem's lawyer said the decision to fire Stem was "unprofessional" and that he believes Stem's shooting was justified. The investigation into the shooting -- which will determine whether or not Stem faces criminal charges -- is still ongoing. Before joining the Hearne force, Stem was an officer in two other Texas towns, spending almost three years with the Bryan PD and one with the Lott PD.
Stem's dismissal bucks the trend of how police officers involved in questionable shootings are often treated. In Los Angeles, West Hollywood, South Carolina, Miami and Albuquerque, unarmed and in some cases totally innocent people have been shot by law enforcement officers, who faced consequences ranging from "additional training" to nothing. In the Miami case (which is still "under investigation," over five months later), the police officers shot almost 400 bullets, killing two unarmed men (one was suspected of committing armed robbery and shooting a cop hours earlier, though the other had nothing to do with it) and hitting each other.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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