Paragraph six reads: “Holt, who investigators determined
fired the fatal shot, was ultimately released from duty. Gabriel
continues to work for the Breckenridge police department.”
reads: “Toxicology reports taken on the three officers showed that
Holt also had 1450 NG/ML of Celexa in his urine. There were no
drugs or other substances detected in results for Gabriel or
Breckenridge shooting death not forgotten
It has been one year
since Michael Richardson was shot to death by Breckenridge police, but the
grieving continues for family and friends.
Shai Berry, a family friend,
organized Justice for Mike to raise funds to help Richardson’s family. Her
response is typical of those with questions that have lingered since his
“Mike didn’t have to die that night,” Berry said. “Not only his
death, but the way he died left a hole in the hearts of so many that only
justice can begin to heal.”
Richardson, 37, of Albany, died from a single
gunshot wound during a confrontation with police at 12:36 a.m. Nov. 29, 2008,
initial reports said.
Breckenridge police officers Scott Gabriel and
Jason Holt were on paid leave until the grand jury in May determined there was
not enough evidence to prosecute them for the shooting.
investigators determined fired the fatal shot, was ultimately released from
duty. Gabriel continues to work for the Breckenridge police
Many questions have surrounded the case in the weeks and
months after the shooting death.
The Reporter-News filed a public
information request with the Department of Public Safety and received copies of
the reports from officers and witnesses involved, as well as copies of in-dash
videos recorded at the scene.
However, a request to the city of
Breckenridge for the personnel files of the two officers was challenged by
attorneys for the city, even after the Attorney General of Texas ruled that the
city should release the files.
To date, the city has not turned over the
officers’ personnel files.
Mark Haney, a Fort Worth attorney who
represents Richardson’s family, also has been denied access to the officers’
Haney said last week he plans to file a federal
lawsuit alleging civil rights violations.
“We intend to file suit because
we believe that the death of Michael Richardson should never had occurred but
for the actions of the police department, and we intend to hold them accountable
for that loss,” Haney said. “The citizens of Breckenridge need to have some
light shined on that police department.”
Andy Messer, the attorney hired
by the city of Breckenridge, said he will “vigorously defend” the city and the
officials should a lawsuit be filed.
“We expected a lawsuit the minute we
received notice of their representation of counsel,” Messer said.
has filed motions blocking the release of the personnel records.
think the Texas Rangers investigation shows the important facts of the case,”
Messer said. “We think the officers were justified in their actions.”
The day before the shooting, Richardson spent Thanksgiving
with his mother Connie Jackson and his sister and her three children.
did all of the cooking and everyone kind of helped,” Connie Jackson remembered.
“We watched football and stayed close to home.”
Then everybody napped for
a while, got up a little later and ate some more.
“I remember Michael got
him a great big piece of pecan pie and got on the bed and watched football,” his
He slept at her house that night. They all got up early
that morning to go shop.
First they stopped to get cell phones for
Richardson’s two sons, Bryant and Bryson, both teenagers. Then the family went
“We were calling each other on cell phones in the store and
finally as I was checking out I saw him by the Christmas trees and waved,”
That would be the last time she saw her son
After shopping, Richardson and some friends were out shooting
feral hogs. He left with a cooler loaded down with Gatorade and set out with a
rifle he kept in his truck.
“He usually never drank when he was hunting,”
said his uncle, James Jackson.
The hunting trip with a friend was the
reason her son had a gun in his truck, his mother, said Connie
Afterward, he went back to Albany where he lived, dropped off
the gifts for his two sons, Bryant and Bryson, cleaned up and headed back to
Hours before death
When he returned to Breckenridge
later that evening, Richardson reportedly headed over to Potter’s Bar and Grill.
In a report taken by investigators from the Texas Rangers, owner and bartender
Amy Potter said that Richardson usually came into the bar once or twice a
On Friday, Nov. 28, the bar was busy, with about 140 customers
inside. Potter told investigators she had never met Richardson but knew who he
was. Several of her bartenders knew him.
She said he usually drank Vodka
and 7-Up but “sometimes he drinks fake drinks to give the impression he is
That night, Richardson paid for two rounds of shots for
friends and paid for five mixed drinks. He paid his tab of $230 at 12:15 a.m.
Potter said he was buying drinks for friends and handing them out just before
“Everyone said Michael was sober when he left the bar,” Potter
said in the statement. He took local bail bondsman Buddy Moser home that
In his statement to investigators, Moser said when Richardson
asked him if he needed a ride home, he said he did. When the two left the bar,
he told investigators he thought “Michael was acting fine and was all right to
“I went into my house and heard what sounded like seven
gunshots,” Moser’s affidavit says. “I never thought it was involving Michael.”
Moser said he called his son after hearing that Richardson had been
“At no time did I ever see a gun in Michael’s truck,” Moser
As he drove away from Moser’s home, Richardson reportedly ran over
a trash can and was dragging it under his truck, he made his way down the street
and eventually landed with his truck hung up on a chain-link fence at the
intersection of West 1st Street and North Court Avenue. In his statement to
investigators, homeowner William Lord said he believed Richardson was about to
drive his truck through the home there.
Lord went to the driver’s side
window and asked Richardson what he was doing but noted he had a blank look on
The initial call to 911 was made by a woman who reported her
According to Reporter-News
archives, when officers arrived on the scene, they found Richardson’s pickup
caught on an aluminum gate post with the wheels spinning.
said Richardson did not respond to their verbal commands, and they believed he
was reaching for a .22 caliber rifle, so one of the officers fired into the
The investigation revealed that both officers fired their weapons
and that the fatal shot was fired from Holt’s gun.
Holt was dispatched to
the scene at 500 Court Street at 12:38 a.m.
Holt, who had been a police
officer for a little less than six years, said when he was approaching the
scene, he noticed a large cloud of smoke coming from a red 2007 Dodge Ram
pickup. Holt said he believed Richardson, who he called “the suspect” was
attempting to drive through the home and wanted to get away from
In his statement, Holt claims he saw Richardson reach down and
touch the scope on the rifle so he opened fire.
Meanwhile Officer Scott
Gabriel arrived on the scene with Wayne McMullen, the city code enforcement
officer who was accompanying him on patrol.
In his statement, Gabriel
said he tried to get Richardson’s attention, by attempting to break out the
windows of the vehicle with a baton or the butt of his revolver, but he could
He then fired shots into the tires of the vehicle and his weapon
jammed. Gabriel said he saw a rifle in the front seat but did not indicate he
saw Richardson reaching for it.
There was only one streetlight
illuminating the area, and Richardson’s windows had a dark tint. In the two to
three minutes from the time Holt arrived to the time shots were fired, Holt
maintains in his statement that he saw Richardson reach for the
“Without any other choice, I reacted by firing several shots at
the suspect driver, through the passenger side front window,” Holt wrote in his
report. Holt said he recalled firing seven shots into the
Gabriel was on the driver’s side of the vehicle when he radioed
dispatch that “shots had been fired,” according to his statement.
heard multiple shots being fired from the direction that Officer Holt was at,”
Gabriel said the truck stopped moving, and he went to
the passenger side to assess the situation.
Meanwhile, Holt had radioed
in for an ambulance.
All three officers said Richardson looked at them
with a blank stare, like he did not know what was going on.
One of the
shots hit Richardson just above the right ear and killed him.
Gabriel finally got the door of the vehicle open, he noted Richardson was
slumped over to the right side with blood coming from his head. Gabriel assisted
medics in loading Richardson onto the ambulance.
Texas Ranger Sgt. Shane Morrow was called to the scene to
conduct the investigation.
Immediately after the shooting, Holt was
escorted to the patrol car of DPS Trooper Grant Atkinson. Moments later, the
weapons of Holt, Gabriel and McMullen were confiscated, and the three officers
were taken to the police department where they gave their
Moments after the shooting, Gabriel reported that he
retrieved the rifle from the passenger side of the vehicle. Atkinson
corroborated that report, saying he offered cover while Gabriel retrieved the
“I did not see the exact location of the rifle since I was at the
back of the pickup,” Atkinson’s statement says.
Witness Angelo Santos,
who lived across the street, said he saw an officer break out the driver’s side
window after the shots were fired.
“The officer reached in the driver
side door and grabbed a long brown item that appeared to be a rifle with black
clip … and handed it to a fireman,” Santos recalled in his
Meanwhile, Richardson was transported to the Stephens County
Memorial Hospital, where doctors pronounced him brain-dead. He was then sent to
Harris Hospital in Fort Worth, where he was pronounced dead. His body was then
transported to the Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s Officer for an
The next day
Within 24 hours, the Texas Rangers released
Richardson’s bullet-ridden truck to his family.
And the next day, family
and friends gathered at the local wrecking yard for a memorial service to honor
Richardson. They looked at and touched the truck, which was riddled with more
than 20 bullet holes and still had Richardson’s blood covering the
“He never even had a traffic ticket,” his father Wayne
Richardson said at the service.
The truck was impounded again about a
month after the shooting, so investigators could continue the
The Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s
Office ruled the death a homicide. Richardson died from a single gunshot wound
behind his right ear, which was determined to have come from Holt’s gun, a .40
caliber Glock semi-automatic handgun.
The autopsy, conducted by Dr. Nizam
Peerwani, revealed that Richardson had an enlarged heart, but there were no
other remarkable findings.
Toxicology results released in February by the
Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s Office show Richardson’s blood alcohol level
was at .053 percent, below the .08 legal limit for intoxication in
The level of the antidepressant citalopram, known by the brand
name Celexa, was found in Richardson’s blood and wasn’t remarkable at 52 NG/ML
(nanograms). Ibuprofen also was detected in his system.
reports taken on the three officers showed that Holt also had 1450 NG/ML of
Celexa in his urine. There were no drugs or other substances detected in results
for Gabriel or McMullen.
questions swirled around the officers and the circumstances involved in the
shooting. Holt, 29, had only been with the department for one year and eight
months before he was fired. In the five years and seven months that Holt has
been a certified peace officer, he has worked for five law enforcement agencies,
He also worked at the Lamb County Sheriff’s
Office, Idalou Police Department, Borger Police Department, Petersburg Police
Department and as a jailer for the Floyd County Sheriff’s Office, according to
the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education, or
Records now indicate Holt was hired by the Wheeler County
Sheriff’s Office in August. TCLEOSE records do not show that any disciplinary
actions have been filed against him.
Gabriel, 34, remains on the
Breckenridge police force, having worked there his entire career, according to
TCLEOSE records. Gabriel became a certified peace officer in May of
The family’s hope
Connie Jackson still carries the message
in a fortune cookie that was pulled out of her son’s car the day hundreds of
friends and family gathered at the wrecking yard.
It reads: “A great
honor will be bestowed upon you in the coming year.”
His mother said the
best honor would be answers to this case.
“I would like to get to the
bottom of this and find out why my son was killed,” she said.
perfect world, she wants her son back, but she knows that is
“Plus I want my son’s name cleared, of being a drunk and
pulling a gun on a police officer because I want his kids to be able to hold
their heads up and know how respected he was.”
Justice for Mike
the days and weeks that followed Richardson’s death, friend and family
questioned the actions of the police.
“It is important for us to make
sure if something like this ever happens again, it is handled without taking a
man’s life,” said Berry, who founded Justice for Mike. “Mike’s family,
especially his young boys, are still feeling the anguish of losing him. Their
pain is as raw as it was one year ago.”
Berry said she and others are
overwhelmed with emotion on the anniversary of Richardson’s death.
hope this story reminds everyone exactly what they have to be thankful for this
year. I am completely overwhelmed with emotion this week,” she said. “I hope
someday we can look back on all this and know we both made a difference
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