Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The FBI Has Opened Civil Rights Investigation Into Shooting

Posted By on Tue, Sep 1, 2015 at 10:51 AM

click to enlarge enhanced-28484-1441083146-1.png

Update: Tuesday, September 1, 2015, 5:08 p.m.:

The San Antonio Express-News reports the FBI has opened a civil rights investigation into the shooting.

Update: Tuesday, September 1, 2015, 12:40 p.m.:

Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, issued this statement on the shooting and video:“The encounter is extremely disturbing as it appears to show an unarmed man with his hands up being shot by a deputy. This incident is further evidence that police officers and deputies should wear body cameras. The widely-supported technology brings transparency and accountability that protects law enforcement and civilians alike. With regard to the specific case in San Antonio, I trust that District Attorney Nico LaHood will pursue an indictment if all the evidence merits it.”

Our original story continues below:

The New York Times reports that the FBI is monitoring the Bexar County Sheriff's Department's investigation into two deputies who shot and killed a 41-year-old man who appeared to be surrendering last Friday.

From the report: 

Special Agent Michelle Lee, a spokeswoman for the F.B.I. in San Antonio, said the agency had started monitoring the sheriff’s investigation into the shooting.

“Experienced civil rights investigators from the F.B.I. will thoroughly review the facts and circumstances surrounding the shooting,” she said in a statement. “Our focus is to determine whether a civil rights violation took place as a result of a deputy willfully engaging in the use of excessive or unjustified force.”

The two deputies — Greg Vasquez and Robert Sanchez — were responding to a domestic disturbance when they allegedly found Gilbert Flores armed with a knife, a woman wounded by a cut to her head and an 18-month-old baby. According to media reports, the deputies attempted to subdue Flores with a Taser and a shield, but eventually shot the man. Vasquez and Sanchez are on administrative leave, per protocol.

click to enlarge Gilbert Flores, 41
  • Gilbert Flores, 41

KSAT-12 obtained video shot by Michael Thomas that showed the shooting. The television station initially edited the video so it cut out before the man was shot. On Monday, news broke that KSAT-12 paid Thomas a $100 licensing fee for exclusive use of the video, prompting criticism from multiple San Antonio journalists.

In the full video, Flores can be seen raising his hands before he is shot. One of his hands is obstructed by a utility pole. Here is a link to KSAT-12's video, but we recommend caution as the video shows a man's death. 

In response to KSAT-12 releasing the full video, the Bexar County Sheriff's Office took to Twitter to chastise local media.

Today, members of our local media chose to broadcast online unedited video of a man's death. KSAT 12 paid a neighbor...

Posted by Bexar County Sheriff's Office on Monday, August 31, 2015

Bexar County District Attorney Nico LaHood's office is also investigating. The DA told KSAT-12 that investigators are reviewing the evidence, and the case will take months before it goes before a grand jury.

On Tuesday, the American Civil Liberties Union weighed in on the shooting.

"The video of Gilbert Flores' fatal shooting by two deputies of the Bexar County Sheriff's Office raises serious concerns over whether these officers used force that was proportional to the circumstances," ACLU of Texas executive director Terri Burke said in a statement. "Like other events that that we've seen across the country involving interactions with law enforcement, this one points to a troubling trend of overzealous and abusive policing."

Burke called on the sheriff's department and DA's office to conduct and transparent investigation and to hold any wrongdoers accountable.

Matt Simpson, a senior policy strategist with the ACLU of Texas, said there would be no record of the interaction without the footage obtained by Thomas.

"To provide more objective evidence of police encounters, all law-enforcement agencies should adopt use of body-worn cameras. Though not a complete solution for incidents of deterring officer or civilian misconduct, body-worn cameras would enable law enforcement to become more transparent to the public, promote police accountability, and help ensure interactions with community members are fair and lawful,” Simpson said in a statement.

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