At the end of last summer, sheriff’s deputies in Bexar County, Texas, were called to the home of 41-year-old Gilbert Flores. According to the audio of a 911 call made by his mother, Flores had “gone crazy” and was beating up his wife. During that call Flores can be heard saying that he intended to commit “suicide by cop” if police came to the house.
Last week a grand jury declined to indict officers in the case. Bexar County District Attorney Nico LaHood said following the grand jury’s decision that he took the case to them because he didn’t believe that it was plain that officers acted totally appropriately. LaHood said:
This one was, I felt and my colleagues felt, was not clear cut, that it should be presented to a grand jury. And it was. And we presented everything.
The grand jury’s decision came after viewing two different videos of the incident. One video, which had been made public, showed Flores’ encounter with officers, during which he allegedly had a knife. Bexar County Sheriff Susan Pamerleau maintains that Flores was holding the knife when he was shot. In the first video, it is hard to tell, as Flores’ hand was obscured by a utility pole. But in the second video, which was shown to the grand jury but not released to the public until December 11, it isn’t clear that Flores had anything in his hands at all.
The second video, shot by Flores’ neighbors, shows Flores acting erratically, yelling at police, and at times appearing to move towards them in a threatening manner. At one point Flores comes out of his house holding two metal folding chairs in front of him, apparently to protect himself from being tasered. Just before he is shot, Flores appears to attempt to climb into a police vehicle. During this whole time deputies act with restraint, backing away when Flores moves towards them. But for some reason when Flores appears to be ready to surrender, he is shot. The video is plain about one thing: at the moment officers open fire, Flores is standing motionless with his hands raised. He is not attempting to move towards the officers at all.
Even though the deputies will not face criminal charges, they are named in a civil lawsuit brought by Flores’ widow. Her attorney, Thomas J. Henry, said, “No matter what he [Flores] said before he gave up, he did not appear to be an imminent threat to anybody.”
Watch the video of the confrontation, and see what you think. There are several spots where it appears that officers would have been totally justified in shooting Gilbert Flores, but it’s only when he raises his hands in the universal signal of surrender that the deputies open fire.
Here’s the video, via YouTube (Caution — strong language):
Featured image via screen capture