Cops Fire 80 Shots at Man with Pellet Gun
Laredo, TX - A man armed with a pellet gun was shot dead by police in Texas early Saturday morning, and family members claim officers unleashed some 80 shots in the fusilade. Laredo police killed Jose Walter Garza, 30, after receiving a call of a man with a gun at the Gateway Truck Stop around 1:50 a.m., Investigator Joe E. Baeza, the department spokesman, told the Daily News on Tuesday. Six different officers opened fire approximately five minutes after arriving on scene, but Baeza could not confirm the number of shots fired in the incident, saying the shooting remains under investigation. All six officers have been “reassigned temporarily,” Baeza said. “We are looking at all possible aspects, hoping to speak to all possible people who are eyewitnesses or may have had a run in with this individual,” he told the News. “There’s a lot of ground to cover.” Officers in this city along the border with Mexico do not wear body cameras but do wear audio recorders. Investigators are reviewing that material, dashcam videos and other evidence, Baeza said. Surveillance video taken at the truck stop, obtained by the Laredo Morning Times, shows squad cars on scene with lights flashing. About 10 seconds in, gunfire erupts and Garza body rolls into view in a fetal position. Three officers, including one armed with a rifle, approach the man with guns raised. One cop reaches in with his foot and kicks away what appears to be a black handgun that had fallen next to Garza’s body. The weapon was a pellet gun, a “semi automatic replica,” Baeza said. Officers then handcuff Garza and secure the scene with crime tape. The speeded up, 10-minute clip shows officers investigate the scene as Garza lies dead on the cement next to a trash can. Family members admit Garza could be disruptive when off his medication for schizophrenia but “he wouldn’t get aggressive, he wouldn’t hurt anyone,” cousin Andrea Martinez told the Daily News. “He’s a good kid,” she said. “Why didn’t they shoot him in the leg, or the arm or something? Not like that.” The Laredo police department’s homicide and internal affairs divisions are both investigating the shooting, Baeza said, and no determination has been made on whether the shooting was excessive. Garza was well known to officers: he’d been arrested by the local department nearly 30 different times, on charges ranging from assault of a public servant and theft to assault causing serious bodily injury and criminal trespassing. It’s unclear if any of the officers involved in the shooting had come in contact with Garza in the past, Baeza said. Police are waiting on an autopsy, though Martinez says the family expects to get Garza’s body back on Wednesday. He’ll be cremated, though his grandmother, with whom Garza lived, originally wanted him buried in a casket. That changed after they saw his body. He was shot so many times, “he had no face,” Martinez said.