Margarita Brooks was homeless and with her dog Thursday when a man spotted her lying outdoors and called police to check on her.
After searching for a bit without success, body camera video shows, a rookie Arlington police officer walks along a sidewalk with a fence on one side and grass and thick trees on the other. From about 100 feet away, he calls out to her.
“Hello? Are you OK?” the officer asks. “Is that your dog? Can you --”
The dog runs toward him. “Get back!” he shouts as he himself retreats.
The officer fires his gun at the dog and halts its advance.
But at least one of the three bullets hurtled past the mixed-breed, part Labrador retriever and pierced Brooks’ chest. Suddenly the encounter became a grave blunder. The officer killed a person he had been dispatched to check on.
“Oh my God!” Brooks screams on the video. “The police shot me!”
The 30-year-old’s woman’s death near Cantor Drive was unintended, Police Chief Will Johnson said Friday at a press conference at the department’s headquarters.
“Everything about this call is an absolute tragedy,” he said. “Our hearts are broken for the Brooks family and the police officer involved.”
The 25-year-old officer graduated from the police academy in February and finished his field training on July 1, Johnson said. Police did not release the officer’s name.
Johnson declined to offer an assessment of whether the officer’s decision to fire on the dog was appropriate. Sharing such an opinion would be presumptuous, he said.
Police on Friday released a portion of the video recording from the officer’s body camera that shows the shooting.
“Clearly this is not the outcome that the officer wanted, nor is it the outcome that the department wanted,” Johnson said.
Johnson said two separate investigations will take place: a criminal probe and, later, an internal affairs examination of whether department policies were violated. The results of the criminal investigation will be sent to the Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney’s Office for review and presentation to a grand jury, Johnson said.
The officer was sent to check on Brooks, who was known as Maggie, because a man called 911 and reported about 5:15 p.m. Thursday that a woman was unresponsive in the grass, police said. The city’s fire department and paramedics were also dispatched.
The officer arrived around 5:20 p.m. and he and the other personnel could not initially find Brooks, police said. The caller later directed the officer and the others to the location where she was last seen.
When the officer found Brooks near Cantor Drive and North Collins Street, an unrestrained dog was near her, police said. The location is behind a shopping center.
Brooks was taken to Medical City Arlington Hospital and pronounced dead about 6 p.m.
The Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s Office said Friday that Brooks died of a gunshot wound to the chest.
The dog, which Johnson said had an injury consistent with being grazed by a bullet, was treated by a veterinarian and impounded at an animal shelter, police said. Johnson described the dog as a mixed breed that is part Labrador retriever and weighs about 40 pounds.
It is not clear whether Brooks was suffering a medical emergency or was under the influence of an intoxicant prior to the shooting, Arlington police Lt. Christopher Cook told the Associated Press.
The patrol officer is assigned to the North District. He was previously employed as a detention officer, beginning in 2012, Johnson said. The officer was placed on administrative leave, which is standard procedure, pending the outcome of the investigations.
He said the officer completed a required eight-hour class on how to respond to calls involving dogs as part of his training. The class includes lessons about animal behavior and the options officers have when confronted by an aggressive dog, Johnson said.
The officer also received the mandatory firearms training, which includes classroom and firing range instruction and practicing how to respond to different scenarios. He had not previously fired a gun on-duty.
‘She was a good-hearted person’
Brooks was apparently homeless and was often seen with her dog and her boyfriend near a shopping center, according to people who knew the couple.
Acquaintances of Brooks said she was a regular in the area of the Seville Commons shopping center, near where she was shot.
City officials told WFAA-TV, the Star-Telegram’s media partner, that Brooks was the daughter of an Arlington Fire Department captain. The fire department did not give the captain’s name.
Larry Hamilton, who often tries to find work outside a Walmart store in the shopping complex, said he knew Brooks and her boyfriend. He said they had a small brown dog and “she was real loving to the dog.” The dog “was her soul,” he said.
“She was a very loving person to the dog,” Hamilton said. “Always made sure the dog was fed before she (was) ... She was a good-hearted person.”
This shooting makes him feel “very concerned.” He said police “don’t really take the proper judgment in that type of situation.”
Arlington residents described the dog as a mixed breed of small to medium size. Hamilton thought it looked like a mix between a beagle and a Labrador retriever. He doesn’t think the dog was aggressive and said he often petted it as he made his way to Walmart.
Hamilton, 64, said he’s lived in a nearby apartment since April but was homeless for seven years. He used to sleep in the woods behind the Walmart.
Brooks and her boyfriend would usually sit underneath a tree outside the Walmart, Hamilton said. Officials at Arlington Life Shelter had no records of Brooks being at their facility.
Larry Johnson, 20, has worked at the Walmart for five months. He would see the couple under the tree with their dog.
Johnson said the dog always seemed to be “playful and nice to everybody. ... I’ve never seen it bark or anything like that to anybody.”
Robert Baxter, a sales manager at a Cadillac dealership next to the Walmart, said the woman and a man would often walk along the side of the supermarket with the dog and a bicycle. The couple would be mindful of the dog, trying to keep it out of the road, he said.
Staff at the Don Davis used car dealership said a brown dog ran into their garage around 6 p.m. after the shooting. Dario Torres, a car transporter, said the dog looked scared until a man came over and calmed it down.