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Texas jury deliberates whether former cop justified in killing woman during welfare check

Prosecutors and defense attorneys argued over culpability of the victim in keeping the dog unleashed and whether the shooting was made in self-defense.

FORT WORTH, Texas (CN) — A Texas jury began deliberations Friday evening into whether a former cop was justified in killing a woman during a welfare check when he fired on her charging dog, with attorneys arguing over the victim’s culpability in keeping the animal unleashed.

Ravi Singh, 29, did not testify in his own defense. He was a rookie with the Arlington Police Department when he shot and killed Margarita “Maggie” Brooks, 30, after responding to reports of a person lying on the grass on Aug. 1, 2019, near North Collins Street. He resigned three months after the shooting.

Singh is charged with one count of criminally negligent homicide and faces up to two years in state prison and a fine of $10,000 if convicted.

In viral bodycam footage played for jurors on Tuesday, Singh is walking down an alley during daylight and asks a seated Brooks if she is all right.

An unleashed dog begins running at Singh, who steps backward and unholsters his gun while Brooks is heard calling out “down” at the dog. Singh fires three times at the dog and Brooks is immediately heard screaming “what the fuck.”

“Oh my God,” Brooks screamed. “The police shot me.”

She later died from a gunshot wound to the upper torso, while her dog was grazed by a bullet. Brooks was the mother of three children.

Defense attorney Rafael Sierra told jurors during closing arguments that Singh is a former Marine and jailer who was just beginning his dream job as a police officer. He said the unleashed dog was running at Singh at 18 miles per hour.

“The whole incident when he fired three times, took 0.53 seconds,” Sierra said. “Ladies and gentlemen, you have no time to think.”

Defense attorney Kathy Lowthorp expressed sympathy to Brooks’ family for her death, but said Singh was not being “selfish” shooting at the unleashed dog to prevent being injured.

“I hate to say it but Ms. Brooks was negligent,” she told the jury. “I want to remind you that those jaws are powerful.”

Prosecutors began closing arguments by playing for the jury Singh’s bodycam footage of when firemen arrived at the scene after the shooting. They described the “befuddled look” on the face of a fire lieutenant when Singh told him Brooks was “caught in the crossfire.” Prosecutors told jurors that Singh’s fear of the 40-pound dog was not reasonable, calling the animal “the Cujo he was so deathly afraid of.”

Before the jury entered the courtroom, both sides argued loudly over the defense’s request for self defense to be included in the jury instructions. Singh’s attorneys told Tarrant County District Judge Ryan Hill that Brooks was negligent in not leashing the animal, so she “absorbs the actions” of the dog. They argued Brooks “was a casualty in his use of self-defense.”

Tarrant County Assistant District Attorney Tim Rodgers forcefully pushed back, dismissing the defense as relying on a “ridiculous nexus for self-defense.”

“She lacked mens rea [criminal intent] when she was unconscious,” Rodgers said. “I’m sorry, but that is absurd.”

Forensic consultant Ron Marinelli testified for the defense Friday morning. He said deadly force was the only viable choice for Singh given the circumstances. His testimony contradicted expert testimony for the prosecution earlier in the week that concluded deadly force was not necessary or reasonable with a person so close to the target.

Under Texas criminal law, criminally negligent homicide is the least serious charge of the state’s four criminal homicide offenses — the other three being manslaughter, murder and capital murder.

Brooks’ family have since sued Singh and the city of Arlington for over $1 million in actual and punitive damages for wrongful death and for violations of her 14th Amendment rights.

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