Police in Laredo, Texas (an open carry state) responded to reports of an “armed man” at a local truck stop. Responding officers unloaded more than 80 shots at Jose Walter Garza early Saturday morning — a number family members say is excessive.
Investigator Joe E. Baeza, the department spokesman, told the Daily News that officers responded to a call about Garza at around 1:50 a.m. Six officers opened fire approximately five minutes after arriving at the Gateway Truck Stop, but Baeza was unable to confirm the exact number of shots fired.
Baeza said that all six officers involved have been “temporarily reassigned.”
“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 said. “There’s a lot of ground to cover.”
The officers were not wearing body cameras, but were equipped with audio recorders. Both the Laredo Police Department’s homicide division and internal affairs are reviewing the audio, along with dashcam videos and other evidence, according to the investigator.
No determination on whether or not the shooting was excessive has been made, Garza told the News.
Surveillance video from the scene shows squad cars with flashing lights. About ten seconds into the footage, the shooting begins. Garza can be seen falling from offscreen and rolling into a fetal position. Three officers approached, including one armed with a rifle, and one of them kicked away what appeared to be a black handgun Garza dropped when he fell.
According to Baeza, that weapon was a pellet gun.
Garza receives no medical attention during the lengthy stretch of video, and family members say that he can be “disruptive” when he is off his medication for schizophrenia. “He wouldn’t get aggressive, he wouldn’t hurt anyone,” cousin Andrea Martinez said.
“He’s a good kid,” she added, “Why didn’t they shoot him in the leg, or the arm or something? Not like that.”
Garza does have a checkered past. He has been arrested more than 30 times, and charged with assault of public servant, theft, criminal trespassing, and assault causing serious bodily injury — but his past is no excuse for treating him like a target at a shooting gallery.
The family originally wanted him buried in a casket, but that changed once they saw the body. Martinez told the News that he was shot so many times, “he had no face.”
Whether this was warranted or not, we wonder if Laredo police are proud of the fist bump 1:25 into the surveillance footage.
Watch the video, below. BE WARNED: It is graphic. Please do not watch it if you can’t handle it. It is very hard to stomach, even if the actual shooting occurred off-camera.