HOUSTON – The death of a man who was shot and killed by bounty hunters in northeast Houston on Wednesday night raises questions about the rules that apply regarding what those who are not the typical law enforcement officers recognized by the public – can and cannot be done when trying to apprehend a suspect.
Some people are raising red flags after a video emerged on social media allegedly showing the fatal shooting of 31-year-old Walter Hutchins seconds after he got into his car.
The shooting happened around 10:30 p.m. Wednesday in the 3400 block of Liberty Road.
According to a Houston Police Department lieutenant at the scene, a group of men, who introduced themselves to police as bounty hunters, were trying to execute a warrant when things took a dangerous turn. There were four, and investigators said they worked for an insurance company that funds private surety companies.
Hutchins was their target.
[WATCH: HPD lieutenant describes shooting incident]
“They were here looking for an individual they had spotted. They found him here inside a vehicle. They approached the individual; the guy that was sitting in the car,” said Lt. R. Willkens, HPD.
Willkens said the bounty hunters initially reported that Hutchins shot them first.
“As they approached, this individual fired several times from inside his vehicle towards these investigators. One of the investigators only fired a rifle once or twice which hit this man and grazed him on the top of the head,” Willkens said. “Our suspect backed up, crashed into a wall. Officers heard the shots, they were close in the area. They came and immediately gave first aid to our gunshot victim and secured the scene.
Hutchins was rushed in critical condition to hospital, where he later died.
The lieutenant said Hutchins had multiple warrants out of Harris County.
“I think he had some credit card abuse, some domestic violence and I think maybe a burglary or something,” he said.
He also said the bounty hunters identified themselves.
“They are private detectives, from what they tell us. They had vests, signs and badges to identify themselves before the shooting happened,” he explained.
The video circulating on social media, however, raises questions if that was the case. After carefully watching the video posted by Rap-A-Lot Records founder and CEO James Prince, many say they never saw Hutchins shoot anyone and that the bounty hunters were the only ones there. shoot.
“You should never bump into someone like this in civilian clothes and without a police car at night. You never gave him the chance to find out who you were without taking him down first,” Prince’s post read.
Hutchins was a very well-known and beloved member of the entertainment community, with many celebrities like Slim Thug, Bun B and Trae tha Truth expressing their disbelief and condolences on social media.
“They killed my friend. I’ve heard of bounty hunters before. I think they had a million dollar bounty on Walter’s head and they were going to split the money as they shot him,” a friend of Hutchins, who wishes to remain anonymous, told KPRC 2.
Commenters on the original KPRC 2 article also chimed in, sharing links to the video, with some saying it looked like the bounty hunters were off the mark.
So, have they gone too far?
“They have the ability to arrest a fugitive, they don’t have carte blanche to become ‘Dirty Harry’ to use force or deadly force where the law doesn’t allow it,” said Brian Wice, legal analyst for the KPRC 2.
No charges have been filed at this time.
What are the rules associated with bounty hunting?
In the state of Texas, bounty hunters — who may be called bail enforcement officers, debt collectors, or fugitive debt collectors, among many other names — are limited by state law to bailiffs. peace, to persons holding a private investigator’s license or to the manager. a licensed survey company or a commissioned security guard employed by a licensed security company.
Bounty hunters in Texas must follow a number of strict rules and regulations. For example, they cannot pose as a law enforcement officer – or display a badge containing the word “law enforcement” – or otherwise connect to the government while bounty hunting. . This is a serious offense and considered a criminal act. Bounty hunters in Texas also cannot enter a residence without consent and must take criminals directly to the appropriate jail once captured.
In particular, the Texas Department of Public Safety notes:
a) A private investigator executing a capia or arrest warrant on behalf of a surety bond cannot:
1. Entering a residence without the consent of the occupants;
2. Executing the capias or the mandate without the written authorization of the surety;
3. Wear, wear or display any uniform, badge, shield or other insignia or emblem which implies that the Private Investigator is an employee, officer or agent of the federal, state or political subdivision of the State ; Where
4. Notwithstanding Section 9.51 of the Penal Code, use deadly force.
In the United States, bounty hunters are said to have apprehended about 30,000, or about 90% of bail survivors, but over the years there have been many cases where they did not follow the rules and were charged. crimes such as theft, assault, kidnapping, identity theft. an officer and a murder.
Fugitive shot in the head by a bounty hunter trying to execute a warrant in the 5th Ward, police say
Copyright 2022 by KPRC Click2Houston – All Rights Reserved.