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As the Family of a San Antonio Man Shot to Death by Police Mourns, the Family of Marquise Jones Still Seeks Justice 

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When 36-year-old Antroine Scott arrived home just after 6 p.m. on February 4, he parked his 2008 Mercedes-Benz in the parking lot of his apartment complex, just as thousands of San Antonio residents do at the end of every day.

What Scott probably didn't know was that two undercover police detectives "were in the area," according to a police report, and spotted the Benz as it pulled into the Wood Hollow Apartments, just north of Loop 410 and a bit west of Highway 281, where Scott lived. It matched the description of a wanted man's vehicle, according to police.

The undercover San Antonio Police Department detectives were looking for Scott. He was a wanted man who had two active felony warrants: one for felony possession of a firearm and another for manufacturing or delivering a controlled substance, less than one gram.

After Scott parked, the detectives requested that two uniformed police officers be dispatched to make the arrest. SAPD officers John Lee and Brian Bilica arrived at the scene at 6:10 p.m. Less than two minutes later, Scott's wife would watch him die.

"[Lee] exited his vehicle and approached the driver side of the [vehicle]," a preliminary police report states. "[Lee] drew his service weapon and ordered [Scott] to 'show me your hands' at approximately the same time the [suspect] swung the drivers [sic] door open and spun to his left."

According to the police report, Lee noticed a black object in Scott's hand. Assuming it was a gun, Lee feared for his life and fired one shot at Scott, striking him in the chest. Scott died in the parking lot.

Scott, a black man, was unarmed. He was holding a cellphone. The time was 6:12 p.m.

Lee, an 11-year veteran of the force, is on administrative duty while the shooting is investigated by the SAPD and Bexar County District Attorney's Office.

Scott's family is, as can be expected, in shock. They hope that an investigation will give them answers, but if things go as they did for the family of another local man shot by police, Marquise Jones, they may never get the satisfaction of seeing justice. Scott's shooting comes just a few weeks before the second anniversary of Jones' shooting. Jones' family is still grappling with that tragedy while seeking justice through a civil case against the City of San Antonio.

click to enlarge Supporters of Marquise Jones still try to bring attention to his killing.
  • Supporters of Marquise Jones still try to bring attention to his killing.

A Vicious Cycle

Scott was not the first person killed by a police officer in San Antonio this year.

On January 17, at 1:45 p.m., an as of yet unidentified SAPD officer shot and killed 27-year-old Ashton Lane Morris, a white man.

San Antonio media outlets reported that police were responding to a car theft in progress when Morris opened fire on them. He was shot several times.

Unlike Morris, Scott was unarmed. Although there were warrants out for Scott's arrest, he had not been engaged in a crime in progress when police arrived at his apartment complex. He was simply a black man who had just arrived home with his wife.

Mayor Ivy R. Taylor, who hasn't publicly spoken much about police-related killings, issued a statement on the Friday after Scott was shot, saying she met with SAPD Chief William McManus and discussed the incident.

"The chief assures us that a full investigation is already underway by the Internal Affairs Unit and that the shooting will be reviewed by the District Attorney's Office," the mayor said in a statement. "I trust in the process and, as always, urge anyone with information to please come forward."

Scott's mother, Diane Peppar, told the San Antonio Express-News that Scott and his wife had just bought the Mercedes and recently moved into Wood Hollow Apartments with their 11-year-old son. The child was in the apartment when Scott was killed, the daily newspaper later reported.

The man's uncle, Jesse Scott, told the paper his nephew was not violent.

"Yeah, he was a little hardheaded ... But he was just starting to turn his life around," his uncle told an Express-News reporter at the scene of the shooting. "Now he's been denied that chance."

Jones' aunt, Deborah Bush, knows what Diane Peppar and Jesse Scott are going through.

On February 28, 2014, SAPD officer Robert Encina, who was in full uniform working security at Chacho's on the city's Northeast Side, shot and killed the 23-year-old Jones. In 10 days it will be two years since Jones died in that parking lot — a death his sister witnessed.

Bush has worked nonstop since that day to keep her nephew's story alive in hopes that Encina, who was "no billed" by a Bexar County grand jury on December 16, 2015, will face punishment.

"We are not going away that easily," Bush said. "Now we have another shooting of another black male, and I will be speaking and standing with this family against this corrupt and crooked system here in San Antonio."

click to enlarge Two years later, Cheryl Jones and Blake Lamkin still mourn the loss of their son Marquise Jones.
  • Two years later, Cheryl Jones and Blake Lamkin still mourn the loss of their son Marquise Jones.

Rumors and Chatter

Jones was a passenger in a vehicle that was involved in a fender bender at the late-night Mexican restaurant's drive-thru around 1:30 a.m. The SAPD says that while Encina was questioning the vehicle's driver, Jones got out of the passenger seat and displayed a handgun. Encina then shot and killed Jones. Initially, police told media that Jones turned around and ran after being shot, before collapsing. At a January 27 City Council B Session meeting about the SAPD's use-of-force reform efforts, Chief McManus told councilmembers that Jones turned toward Encina with the gun, before the shooting.

"The autopsy report is consistent with that statement," McManus said.

An autopsy conducted by the Bexar County Medical Examiner's Office, however, states that Jones died from a gunshot wound to his mid-left back. "The wound is back to front, left to right and upward," according to the autopsy report. The medical examiner found no evidence of close-range firing. Bush said this is why Jones' family believes the man was running away from Encina when he was shot in the back.

Jones' family members have alleged that the gun that supposedly belonged to the 23-year-old was planted and lacked fingerprints.

McManus said Jones carried a revolver, which, generally speaking, is a difficult weapon to extract a print from.

"You have embossed surfaces, you have different rough surfaces and small surfaces that don't hold the full fingerprint on a revolver," McManus told City Councilman Rey Saldaña, who questioned the chief during the meeting about claims of missing fingerprints. "Just a fact. Not defending it. But it's not unusual to not be able to draw a fingerprint from a revolver."

Daryl Washington, a lawyer representing Jones' family in their civil case against the city and police department, questions whether authorities ever even tried to obtain fingerprints from the weapon in the first place.

"Did they even test the gun?" Washington asked. "Did they even dust it? It's one thing to not get it sometimes and another thing to not dust the gun at all."

Ever since Jones' death, questions about the revolver and the fingerprints have lingered, which is why McManus said he brought the case up at the City Council B Session.

"I've not spoken out on this before, amidst the rumors and chatter in the community, but I'm speaking out on this now, and these are the facts in the investigation," McManus said.

He said if he thought the shooting was a "bad one," or if it was against policy, or if he doubted whether Jones had a gun or thought it wasn't justified, he would have filed charges against Encina.

McManus did not address the allegation that police never even checked the gun for prints during that public meeting, and as of press time, the San Antonio Current was waiting for police to respond to a request for comment about the matter.

"Mr. Jones had a gun. The officer saw him with a gun. An independent witness saw him with a gun," McManus said. "The driver of the vehicle that Mr. Jones had been in prior to the shooting said in his statement to the investigator that when the shots were being fired, he believed that Mr. Jones was the one shooting."

The chief said the investigator on the case is one of the best at the SAPD.

"The case was independently reviewed by the Bexar County ADA, assistant district attorney, and then taken before a grand jury where it was 'no billed,'" McManus said.

McManus' tone did not sit well with Bush, who watched archived video of his comments.

"We were very upset. I couldn't believe that he said those things. Some organizations have spoken to him about that article, and he said that it was taken out of context, he didn't mean it that way," Bush said, referring to an Express-News column about the meeting. "He is a liar, just like all of the city officials here in the city. Wounds were reopened on that day. It just showed us that they do not respect us as a family, just like in the beginning."

Washington also disputes the assertion that the grand jury process was fair.

"There is evidence in this case that was not presented to the grand jury, key evidence that was not presented, such as, there was no note made to the grand jury that the gun was not dusted for fingerprints," he said. "There were eyewitnesses who were not allowed to testify. So based on this, we are seeking to reconvene [the grand jury]."

That's what the Jones family wants, too.

"No matter what, we're going to do everything we can to get justice for my nephew," Bush said earlier this year, flanked by family and friends while at the Martin Luther King Jr. Day march where she participated in direct action with Black Lives Matter activists calling for Encina's arrest. "Even though he didn't get indicted, we're going to try to get a rehearing, and that's exactly what my family is trying to do now."

click to enlarge Activists called for SAPD Officer Robert Encina’s arrest at the MLK Day march.
  • Activists called for SAPD Officer Robert Encina’s arrest at the MLK Day march.

Unsettling Outcomes

It's not completely unheard of for a rehearing to happen.

In late January 2014, a Mecklenburg County grand jury in Charlotte, North Carolina, reconvened to hear a voluntary manslaughter case against 28-year-old Randall Kerrick, who fired 10 bullets at former Florida A&M football star Jonathan Ferrell in September 2013, The New York Times reported.

Ferrell lost control of his car on a dark stretch of road and drove off the street. He went to the nearest house and knocked on the door seeking help. A white woman who lived at the residence called police, and Kerrick shot and killed Ferrell, saying he aggressively charged at him, according to the article.

In that case, however, the grand jury reconvened just one week after the previous grand jury declined to indict, recommending that prosecutors return and present a lesser charge. According to The New York Times, prosecutors presented two more witnesses and empaneled a full grand jury of 18 jurors – only 14 jurors sat on the original grand jury – who indicted Kerrick on charges of voluntary manslaughter.

However, during the 2015 trial, jurors were unable to reach a unanimous verdict and the judge declared a mistrial, The Charlotte Observer reported. The city eventually settled with Ferrell's family for $2.25 million.

Washington says his clients have no intention of settling with the City of San Antonio over Jones' death.

"There's been no settlement discussions," he said. "We're going through the discovery process and are looking forward to going to court."

He said that the fact that Encina was not indicted should not have an effect on a civil case.

"It has no impact whatsoever. In fact, we are moving forward with the case, and we are going to be able to show the killing of Marquise was definitely unjustified," Washington said. "There was no need to shoot Mr. Jones. There is absolutely no evidence that Marquise had a gun in his hand, that anyone's life was in danger, but there is evidence that Marquise was shot in the back as he was attempting to run away from the restaurant."

The SAPD hasn't directly addressed Jones' family suspicions, outside of McManus' comments during the recent public meeting.

Like Jones' family, Scott's family has already hired representation from the law firm Thomas J. Henry Injury Attorneys.

"To say this is disappointing is an understatement. This has become a serious concern in San Antonio," Henry said in a statement released to the Express-News. "This is now the second family my firm represents who had a family member unjustifiably killed at the hands of law-enforcement agents."

Henry also represents Gilbert Flores' family. In a cellphone video seen 'round the world, Bexar County Sheriff's Department deputies Greg Vasquez and Robert Sanchez shot and killed the 41-year-old Flores while responding to a domestic violence report on August 28, 2015. Flores, who had threatened suicide by cop and held a knife in his hand, appeared to be surrendering when the officers opened fire. A Bexar County grand jury declined to indict Vasquez and Sanchez last December, a week before another grand jury did the same with Encina.

While Scott's family is just starting down a long road, one that Bush and the rest of Jones' family has been traveling for nearly two years, that pain and loss doesn't go away.

"The family's life has not been the same," Washington said, speaking to the toll of the death, the ensuing media coverage and legal proceedings have inflicted on Jones' family.

Reliving the loss through the media and legal proceedings won't be any different for Scott's family. Neither will the effect of seeing his mug shots on the news instead of cherished family photos. Rumors and accusations about Scott and his personal life will surely make the rounds. Rash judgments will be made and activists will likely take up Scott's cause, just as they have taken up Jones'.

And, in all likelihood, the probability that the officer who killed Scott will face any time in jail for taking an unarmed black man's life in less than two minutes won't change, either.

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