Thursday, June 30, 2016

Deputies Failed to Mention Man’s Hands Were Raised Above His Head When They Shot and Killed Him

Posted By on Thu, Jun 30, 2016 at 7:45 AM

click to enlarge No less than two bystander videos show deputies shot and killed Gilbert Flores when his hands were raised above his head — a detail the officers neglected to mention in their sworn statements after the shooting
  • No less than two bystander videos show deputies shot and killed Gilbert Flores when his hands were raised above his head — a detail the officers neglected to mention in their sworn statements after the shooting
When Bexar County sheriff’s deputies Robert Sanchez and Greg Vasquez first arrived outside Gilbert Flores’ parents’ house on the far northwest side, they encountered a chaotic scene. Flores’ mother had just called 911, saying her son had beaten his wife and baby. On the 911 call, Flores can reportedly be heard saying, “I got a knife, and I’m going to suicide by cop.” When the deputies got to him, according to their sworn statements, Flores yelled, “Shoot me, I’m not going back to prison.” They say he even tried to stab one of the officers with a knife he refused to drop.

One deputy said in his sworn statement that he was afraid Flores would try to break into a nearby police cruiser to steal a weapon before the officers opened fire. The other deputy swore Flores “started advancing” toward the deputies before they shot.

What the deputies didn’t mention in their sworn statements, which were made public in court this week, was that Flores had his hands raised above his head when they killed him.

The only reason we know that is because of a bystander video broadcast by KSAT last year that captured the August 28, 2015 shooting. At the time, the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office excoriated the station for running the video, in a Facebook post calling the release of the footage “unethical and sad.” A second video authorities released after both officers were cleared of criminal wrongdoing by a grand jury late last year also shows Flores being shot with his hands up.

According to lawyers who have sued the county on behalf of Flores’ surviving family members, the deputies’ sworn statements taken the day of the shooting call into question not only their credibility but perhaps even the quality of the official investigation authorities presented to grand jurors tasked with deciding whether or not to bring criminal charges against the officers.

This week the attorneys filed a motion in federal court seeking the investigative file for the shooting from the Bexar County DA’s office, which presented the case to a grand jury, or any documents that show exactly what was presented to grand jurors. Attorneys Thomas Henry and Robert Wilson write in their motion that the “factual statements made by officers Vasquez and Sanchez in these written statements are in direct conflict with the video tape of the shooting and are in crucial portions complete fabrications.”

It’s not entirely clear how the county responded once it figured out two deputies captured on video shooting a man with hands raised failed to mention that critical detail in their official sworn statements. While the sheriff’s office has yet to respond to our request for comment, yesterday we got a hint as to how the county might respond to the discrepancy as the lawsuit moves forward – sheriff’s spokesman James Keith told the Express-News yesterday that enhanced video footage, which hasn’t been shown to the public, “verifies Flores did in fact move toward the deputies while holding a large knife.” (Keith didn’t elaborate, declining further comment to the paper.)

Which would be a departure from what the county’s own criminal investigations division concluded sometime after video footage of the shooting was made public. According to an investigation summary filed in court this week, “The video footage clearly illustrates the Decedent apparently standing still with his hands in the air just prior to being shot by Deputy Sanchez and Deputy Vasquez.” 

The reports were attached to a motion filed in federal court this week, which you can read here:  flores_mtntocompel_2.pdf

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