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Family sues Bexar County and Sheriff over 2020 shooting

Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar held a press conference on Monday announcing a 30-day policy to release body cam footage. However, Bexar County commissioners on Tuesday instituted a 10-day release policy for all county law enforcement agencies.
Joey Palacios / Texas Public Radio
Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar at press conference announcing a 30-day policy to release body cam footage last year. However, Bexar County commissioners on instituted a 10-day release policy shortly after.

A Bexar County family is suing the Bexar County Sheriff’s office over the 2020 shooting death of their father.

According to federal court filings, Jesus Benito Garcia was shot to death by Bexar County Sheriff’s Deputy Brandin Moran.

Moran arrived at the scene of a domestic disturbance on March 9, 2020, and — according to court filings — found Garcia holding a screwdriver to his own throat, threatening to hurt himself if his wife left him.

Despite another officer with the Elmendorf Police being on-scene, Moran shot Garcia within 10 seconds of arriving, according to the filing.

“There was a Sergeant, a Elmendorf officer on the scene who was trying to de-escalate the situation was using de escalation techniques, and then deputy Moran barged in and fired seven shots within 10 seconds, ” said Matt Garcia, a lawyer representing the family from Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid.

Moran offered no warning of his intent to fire, did not identify himself and didn’t confer with Elmendorf’s Sergeant David Reyes — who had been there for four minutes in the small trailer with Garcia.

The family’s lawyers also allege that after shooting Garcia, Moran did not immediately give him medical assistance.

“For about 17 minutes, Deputy Moran did nothing to help the man he just shot. He ignored Bexar County Sheriff’s Office policy requiring him to render aid and his own extensive first aid training while he paced around the inside of the Garcias’ trailer,” reads the federal court document.

Emergency medical personnel would finally arrive and pronounce him dead shortly after arriving.

The sheriff’s department was not immediately available for comment.

According to Garcia, the family had been in talks with District Attorney Joe Gonzales’ office over potential criminal Grand Jury proceedings against Deputy Moran in May of last year. They were told that would happen in July 2021

Since then, their requests for updates have gone unanswered.

“The Civil Rights Division’s review of this shooting is ongoing so we cannot comment on this specific case,” said Nicole Perez, DA’s office communications officer. “As with all officer-involved shootings, it will be presented to a Grand Jury who will either return a true-bill of indictment and send it to a court for trial or a no-bill of indictment.”

Since the shooting, the Sheriff’s Office has announced policy changes around use-of-deadly force as well as a Bexar County Commissioners Court-mandated policy of releasing body cam footage within 10 days in deadly use of force cases.

Despite these changes and repeated requests, the family has not received either Moran’s body camera footage, nor an autopsy, said Garcia.

“According to Mr. Garcia’s certificate of death, an autopsy was performed on the body, the manner of death was deemed to be a homicide, and the immediate cause of death was stated as “multiple gunshot wounds,” reads the federal complaint.

The lawsuit also blames the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office for bad policies that led to the deadly encounter. The BCSO changed its use of force policy in months after the deadly shooting.

The federal lawsuit was filed just days ahead of a two-year statute of limitations, and Garcia said they had hoped the DA’s office would have moved more quickly and released documents to the family. But their patience is at an end.

“Our hand has really been forced at this point,” Garcia said, “We need to file this lawsuit in order to get any kind of accountability in order to get any kind of answers for the family.”

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Paul Flahive can be reached at Paul@tpr.org