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Criminal Justice

Bexar County DA will not prosecute deputy indicted for manslaughter

Bexar County Courthouse
Paul Flahive
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Texas Public Radio
Bexar County Courthouse

Updated 3.25.22

Bexar County District Attorney Joe Gonzales will not prosecute a sheriff’s deputy for manslaughter, despite an indictment earlier in the week.

“A grand jury indictment only means that a jury found probable cause that a crime occurred, and not that the office can prove a case beyond a reasonable doubt, which requires a much higher level of proof,” said Gonzales in a statement.

A Bexar County grand jury indicted Bexar County Sheriff’s Deputy Brandin Moran for allegedly “recklessly” shooting and causing the death of Jesus Garcia in March of 2020.

The family had expressed relief at the indictment earlier this week.

“We are grateful to learn that the grand jury has reviewed our father’s case and indicted Deputy Moran,” said Jessica Garcia, Jesus’ daughter.

Now they are stunned, said their attorney Matt Garcia with Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, who has no relation to the deceased.

“This decision is baffling and very disappointing both to TRLA and to the Garcia family, he said. .

“The DA presented the case and presumably presented all of the evidence to the jury and they made the determination that there was enough to proceed. The fact that the DA has now made an about face and decided not to go forward is both baffling and deeply disappointing,” Garcia said.

Moran, 33, was placed on leave pending his arrest, but now will return to work for BCSO.

“Earlier this afternoon, the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office was notified by the Bexar County District Attorney’s Office that the manslaughter charge filed against Deputy Brandin Moran was dismissed. Effective immediately, Deputy Brandin Moran will be returning from Administrative Leave to Full Duty at the BCSO,” said a spokesman for the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office.

The sheriff’s office said earlier in the week it was conducting investigations into the shooting. The office didn’t respond to questions about the status of those investigations.

Police arrived at Garcia’s trailer on March 9, 2020 for a domestic disturbance. An officer with the Elmendorf Police Department was first on the scene and was in the trailer when Moran arrived. Garcia was holding a screwdriver to his own throat and threatening to hurt himself if his wife left him, according to the family’s federal lawsuit against Moran and Bexar County.

Not mentioned in the documents is where the two narratives diverge.

Gonzales said Garcia had his wife pinned to the ground. He said the presence of a potentially deadly weapon would make it very difficult to prove that Garcia wasn’t a threat to his wife or the officers.

“We would also have to disprove that Deputy Moran acted to defend Ms. Garcia’s life. Given that Mr. Garcia held a potentially lethal weapon and had his wife essentially held hostage, we do not believe we could make this showing beyond a reasonable doubt,” Gonzales said.

According to the federal lawsuit filing, Moran fired within seconds of arriving and he did not consult with the officer onsite who the filing says was trying to de-escalate the situation.

Lawyers for the family dispute the narrative that was provided by the DA’s office.

Matt Garcia said their notes from a supervised viewing of the bodycam footage did not show the events as described by the DA. Garcia said it was all the more reason to release the body cam footage.

“Once the video is out we can really begin to hash this thing out,” he said.

Garcia’s family sued without knowing if District Attorney Joe Gonzales’ office would pursue charges. According to their lawyer, the DA’s office said it would pursue charges two years ago but the family hadn’t heard anything for almost a year. In that time, the family has not been given the body cam footage of the incident despite the county mandating body camera footage from all officer involved shootings be released within 10 days.

The news comes two weeks after the Garcia family sued Bexar County and Moran for the death.

Joe-Gonzales-DA-PALACIOS-041221.JPG
Joey Palacios / Texas Public Radio
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Bexar County District Attorney Joe Gonzales

“The last two years have been painful as no progress had been made to hold the deputy accountable for what he did,” said Jessica Garcia’s earlier in the week.

The family will continue with its federal civil rights lawsuit. According to their attorneys, the grand jury validated their beliefs.

“One jury already saw that there was enough evidence to find that a crime occurred,” said Matt Garcia “A second jury will find that the shooting was a senseless tragedy and a shocking violation of his civil rights.”

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