City Hall

Mother of Man Shot Dead by Texas State Troopers Sues DPS and Dallas

State troopers were pulling people over left and right when they were sent to Dallas in 2019. Then they shot a man after he allegedly failed to use his turn signal.
State troopers were pulling people over left and right when they were sent to Dallas in 2019. Then they shot a man after he allegedly failed to use his turn signal. Cornellrockey04
Schaston Hodge was driving to his South Dallas home on Aug. 17, 2019. He lived with his grandmother as her caretaker. When he turned onto a street near his neighborhood, red-and-blue lights flashed in his rearview.

That summer, Gov. Greg Abbott had deployed the Texas Department of Public Safety to Dallas to help clamp down on a surge in crime. DPS officers Joshua Engleman and Robert Litvin had just finished a traffic stop nearby, and they say Hodge hadn't used his blinker.

Engleman and Litvin say Hodge tried to get away, but less than minute after the alleged illegal turn, he pulled into his driveway.

At the house, Litvin ran from his patrol car with his gun drawn as Hodge started to exit his vehicle. “Show me your hands! Show me your hands!” Litvin yelled.

Seconds later, the two cops opened fire on Hodge. They say Hodge had a gun in his hand when he exited the vehicle. But according to a lawsuit filed this month by Schaston’s mother, Shandra, he was trying to comply with the officer’s command when the bullets started flying his way. Shandra filed a lawsuit against DPS and the city on the second anniversary of her son’s death.

Engleman and Litvin fired 19 shots. Three missed, but the other 16 were enough to kill Schaston Hodge in his driveway that night.

“They killed my son like he was an animal,” Shandra told Dallas Morning News in January last year.

In her lawsuit, Shandra claims her son never tried to harm the officers. Nor did he make any threats to do so, she says; he was only trying to comply when the officers started shooting at him.

Shandra is taking aim at the officers for excessive force and assault and battery on her son. She also thinks the city and DPS should be held liable for inadequate de-escalation and use of force training, and claims the city and DPS have a de facto policy of shooting first and asking questions later, as well as not disciplining officers when they step out of line.

“They killed my son like he was an animal.” – Shandra Hodge, mother

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“Mr. Hodge did nothing to threaten these officers in any way. What you saw were overly aggressive police officers,” said Blerim Elmazi, one of Shandra Hodge’s attorneys. “Had they followed proper policy, had they not profiled Hodge based solely on a traffic stop, had they not acted like they had every authority in the world to just run up and shoot at someone 19 times, this situation could have been handled so much more differently and Mr. Hodge would still be alive.”

At time of publication, DPS and the city hadn't responded to requests for comment.

Gov. Abbott sent in state troopers to patrol high-crime areas after hearing DPD appealed for more manpower that summer. It was a tactic that some at the department still consider successful despite controversy over communities feeling over-policed.

The troopers made over 12,000 traffic stops and 1,000 arrests. Half of the arrests made in what was dubbed “Operation D-Town” were for felony offenses. Schaston Hodge’s death prompted more calls for the troopers’ removal. They left Dallas on Sept. 1 in 2019.

Abbott sent the troopers back to Dallas the following year. DPD said the deployment was in response to an uptick in crime linked to "violence surrounding entertainers that cross multi-jurisdictional boundaries."

Around that time, Dallas rapper Mo3 was shot and killed as he drove down I-35. The next week, Louisiana rapper Boosie Badazz was shot in the leg after attending a vigil for his former collaborator Mo3. Boosie's injuries weren't life-threatening.

The Dallas Morning News later obtained documents that showed DPS reported different versions of what happened to Hodge that night. In a custodial death report filed to the attorney general's office, DPS said Hodge fired shots. That account contradicts other initial reports from DPS that Hodge “pulled a handgun” but hadn’t fired.
Shandra Hodge claims home security footage from that night “discredits” what DPS says about the incident. About five months after the shooting, DPS released video that appeared to show Hodge with a gun in his hand that night as he exited his car.

He had a Second Amendment right, Shayan Elahi, one of Shandra Hodge’s other attorneys in the case, said. “You can watch the video and make your own determination, but our position is [against] the actions of the police officers, not the constitutionally protected actions of our client,” he said.

Elahi said he doubts the same cops would have chased down and shot a white man in Coppell or Frisco in the same circumstances. “It’s high time that police, and society in general, accept that Second Amendment rights belong to everybody, even young African-American males,” Elahi said.

“Just shouting ‘Someone had a gun in their hand’ is not enough because how many videos can I show you right now where young white men have guns and are parading around people’s neighborhoods and these cops will do nothing?" Elahi added.

He argued that there’s a racial bias in how gun laws are enforced.

“That’s a very serious thing when they start using guns as an excuse to shoot someone dead,” Elahi said. “Well, I thought starting Sept. 1 everyone can carry a damn gun in Texas according to Greg Abbott, right?”

The suit is still in the early stages, with court papers still being served this week. But Shandra and her attorneys want a trial jury.

“Those officers executed my son,” Shandra Hodge told the News. “If a person wants to legally kill someone, they should go work for the police department, the state troopers or the Texas Rangers, because they are allowed to legally kill anyone. Someone needs to be held accountable.”
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Jacob Vaughn, a former Brookhaven College journalism student, has written for the Observer since 2018, first as clubs editor. More recently, he's been in the news section as a staff writer covering City Hall, the Dallas Police Department and whatever else editors throw his way.
Contact: Jacob Vaughn