Just about everyone around Arlington's Seville Commons shopping center knew Margarita "Maggie" Brooks and her dog.
Brooks, 30, and her boyfriend had been living on the streets, but she had earned a reputation in the area as a "good hearted person," said Larry Hamilton, who lives nearby and knew her. She "always made sure the dog was fed before she [was]," he added.
Speaking to The Dallas Morning News, store owners in the shopping center said Brooks was friendly. Justin Patton, who owns the local CBD American Shaman, told the newspaper that Brooks and her boyfriend came to the area every day.
But on Aug. 1, 2019, someone called the Arlington Police Department's non-emergency hotline and asked if an officer could conduct a welfare check on Brooks, who had been lying with her dog on a grassy spot near the shopping center.
Arlington PD dispatched officer Ravinder Singh. As he approached the area where Brooks lay, apparently sleeping, her dog started running toward the officer, body camera footage shows. Singh fired off three shots, one of which struck Brooks in the chest and killed her.
A little more than a year later, a grand jury returned a criminal indictment charging Singh with criminally negligent homicide, a charge that carries a potential sentence of 180 days to two years.
Earlier this month, Brooks' father filed a wrongful death lawsuit in a federal court, adding to the list of high-profile lawsuits against North Texas police departments over welfare checks that ended with shots fired.
“We’ve seen far too often because of just how militarized our law enforcement apparatus has become, that that’s a dangerous scenario, Margarita Brooks being one of the more recent examples,” said Lee Merritt, a civil rights attorney who is representing Brooks' father, Troy.
Arlington PD could not be reached for comment.
“The greater concern is law enforcement being the ones responsible for mental health or wellness checks." - S. Lee Merritt, Civil Rights Attorney
Last July, a Fort Worth police officer shot Tracy Langiano five times while conducting a welfare check at his motel room. Langiano, who survived with serious injuries, recently filed a lawsuit against the city of Fort Worth and its police department.
In October 2019, a Fort Worth police officer shot and killed Atatiana Jefferson while responding to a non-emergency welfare call. In November last year, Jefferson's father filed suit against the Fort Worth Police Department.
Meanwhile, the Brooks lawsuit comes on the heels of another case that sparked outrage in North Texas. Marvin Scott III, who had schizophrenia, died in Collin County Jail while experiencing a mental health crisis.
Like Scott, Brooks had also been diagnosed with schizophrenia, according to Merritt, who also represents Scott's family.
Around a quarter of people killed by police in the U.S. have a mental illness, according to a recent Washington Post analysis, as do about 45 percent of those who end up homeless.
Although Arlington Police weren't called to check on Brooks over a mental health crisis, Merritt said the case highlights the risks posed by leaving welfare checks up to police officers.
“The greater concern is law enforcement being the ones responsible for mental health or wellness checks,” he explained.