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Bexar County settles lawsuit with family of man shot to death by sheriff's deputy

Paul Flahive
Texas Public Radio
Bexar County Courthouse

The family of a man shot to death by a Bexar County Sheriff's deputy settled its federal civil rights case with the county for an undisclosed amount Tuesday.

Bexar County Commissioners voted to pay $200,000 to cover the county’s deductible for liability insurance and allow its insurance company’s lawyers settle and pay for the rest. It is currently unclear how much will be paid to the family of Jesus Benito Garcia, who was shot to death in March 2020 after a domestic disturbance with his wife brought police to his trailer.

Lawyers for the Garcias declined to comment on the amount of the settlement.

The details of what happened on the night of March 9, 2020, are still elusive because both the Bexar County District Attorney’s office and the City of Elmendorf have fought to keep body camera footage secret.

The continued opaqueness leaves questions unanswered around how the police interact with the mentally unstable and the mental fitness of one of those in charge of enforcing the law. These questions so troubled the DA’s Civil Rights division that it sought a manslaughter indictment for Deputy Brandin Moran. A grand jury found enough evidence to proceed to trial, but DA Joe Gonzales declined to prosecute the case.

The two narratives that emerged in legal filings diverged around significant details of the shooting, painting very different pictures of both Garcia and Moran.

Garcia was clearly in a mental crisis in both versions — but his family said he was only ever a threat to himself. An argument with his wife escalated as she tried to leave him, prompting neighbors to call the police.

Where Garcia was at the time Moran arrived is in dispute. Gonzales said Garcia had his wife pinned to the ground and held a deadly weapon. The characterization departed from his office’s own filings in the federal case.

“Ms. Garcia was on the floor with her husband with a weapon in his hand (and) was looming over her,” read a filing.

Moran fired seven shots within 10 seconds of arriving, striking Garcia five times as he kneeled on the ground near his wife, said Garcia’s lawyers in filings. When shot, Garcia had been holding a screwdriver to his own throat.

Before being killed the family said an Elmendorf police sergeant on the scene was deescalating the situation and had already holstered his firearm.

Lawyers for the family said Moran acted recklessly — which a grand jury agreed with — and that he violated the BCSO’s own use of force policy, which says an officer “must exhaust every reasonable means of employing the minimum amount of force to affect an objective before escalating to the next. …”

Moran was reinstated with the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office when the DA dismissed the case.

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Paul Flahive can be reached at Paul@tpr.org