SAN ANTONIO – The Bexar County District Attorney's Office last month dismissed a murder charge against a San Antonio man seen on camera last year shooting an acquaintance eight times, killing him outside a Northwest Side home.
Prosecutors dropped the charge against Scott Ross, 36, on July 3, citing insufficient evidence, defense of a third party and self-defense.
The early morning shooting of Bryan Freidberg in February 2018, which took place outside a home in the 8300 block of Exbourne Drive and was captured on a home surveillance camera, happened moments after Freidberg pulled a woman out of a vehicle that was in gear.
As the woman hit the ground and the vehicle rolled away, Ross approached Freidberg and repeatedly fired a handgun at him.
Ross cooperated with San Antonio police at the scene was actually the person who called 911 after the shooting, according to an SAPD incident report provided to the KSAT 12 Defenders.
While Ross was not charged at the scene, records show a murder warrant was issued for his arrest in March 2018 and he was arrested weeks later.
A grand jury then indicted Ross in June 2018, while previous District Attorney Nico LaHood was still in office.
"When the case came for trial, I reviewed everything we had. I interviewed witnesses. I watched all the witness statements, spoke to detectives. I spoke to officers and it was my opinion and then concurred by the office that there was insufficient evidence to proceed on this case," said Lorina Rummel, first-chair prosecutor for 227th District Court.
District Attorney Joe Gonzales echoed Rummel's decision.
"It's her belief and mine that if the grand jury had the information that we have at their disposal, they might not have indicted this case to begin with," Gonzales said.
Footage of the shooting was obtained by the Defenders a day before the charge against Ross was dismissed.
In the 43-second clip, Freidberg, 30, is seen standing next to the driver's side door of a truck while two other people, including Ross, stand nearby.
Freidberg then reaches into the truck and pulls the woman out of it, causing the vehicle to roll away.
Ross quickly approaches from the left side of the screen and begins firing at Freidberg, who falls down and disappears from view.
After the initial barrage of gunfire, Ross circles Freidberg and fires one more shot.
Ross' final shot came approximately five and a half seconds after he fired his second-to-last shot.
"It was truly under the law justified," said Ross' attorney Bernard Campion during a phone call last month.
Campion described Ross and Freidberg as friends.
He said Freidberg was armed during the incident and that his client fired at Freidberg while he was on the ground because he was still alive and reaching for his weapon a second time.
VIDEO: Surveillance video shows shooting death of Bryan Freidberg | Viewer discretion advised
8 gunshot wounds
An autopsy of Freidberg shows that he had eight gunshot wounds, a majority of them to his mid-section.
Seven bullets or fragments of them were recovered from Freidberg's mid-section, upper leg and finger, while the eighth bullet struck Freidberg in the right arm and exited, the autopsy shows.
An accompanying toxicology report shows that Freidberg's blood-alcohol level was .106, over the legal limit to drive a vehicle, and that he had cocaine in his system at the time of his death.
"We just want the truth to be known."
Freidberg's family members say the footage does not demonstrate a self-defense case.
"We just want the truth to be known," a brother of Freidberg said via email in late June, less than two weeks before the charge against Ross was dismissed.
Family members contend that Freidberg reached into the vehicle to stop the woman from driving drunk.
"District Attorney Joe Gonzales got it right."
Legal experts who spoke with the Defenders for this story were split on whether they believe the shooting constitutes self-defense or defense of a third person.
"It's my opinion that our District Attorney Joe Gonzales got it right," said longtime San Antonio criminal defense attorney Adam Kobs, who reviewed the video footage and available details of the case.
He pointed out that Ross did not aggravate the situation and was actually walking away as Freidberg reached into the truck to pull out the woman, "forcibly removing her from a vehicle that was in gear."
He also said it appears that Freidberg reaches for his waistline, possibly to retrieve a weapon, as Ross moves toward him with the handgun.
"Ultimately, my opinion is that this was a justified shooting," Kobs said.
Geary Reamey, a criminal law professor at St. Mary's University School of Law, said based on the video, he sees major problems with treating it as a justified shooting.
"The law doesn't want you to kill anybody until there's no other choice," Reamey said.
He described the act of Freidberg pulling the woman from the truck as non-deadly force.
"To use deadly force against him at that point looks more like retaliation than it does like justification," Reamey said.
He said the footage is a great example of the "double-edged sword" video has created for law enforcement agencies.
While video captured the shooting and what led up to it, Reamey said it shows only one angle and misses some details because of its quality.
Five aggressive acts
Rummel said the video shows the last of five aggressive acts by Freidberg in the two and a half hours before his death.
Prior to being shot, witnesses said Freidberg:
- Committed assault choking/strangulation against a woman
- Pursued the woman as she left the home and broke out the rear window of a vehicle she got into
- Pulled the door off the hinges of a vehicle the woman got into
- Grabbed the woman by her head and shook it back and forth as she tried to leave again
- Reached into a truck and choked/strangled the woman as she tried to drive away
"You can see his entire top half of his body in the vehicle," Rummel said.
She said Ross intervened on the woman's behalf several times during the previous incidents, prior to ever pulling out a gun.
She said Freidberg's criminal record, which included serving 10 years in prison for aggravated robbery of a woman using a gun, played no role in her dismissing the case against Ross.
"Actually, in my decision making, that is the last thing I look at," Rummel said.
Self-defense, defense of a third party
The state's statutes for self-defense and defense of a third party are laid out in chapter 9 of the Texas Penal Code.
According to the penal code, someone can be of the belief that deadly force is immediately necessary if a person attempts to unlawfully remove him or her from a vehicle.
That justification applies to defense of a third person, if someone believes his or her intervention is immediately necessary to protect a third person, according to the penal code.
Attorneys could argue that either of these sections of the penal code apply to the Freidberg shooting.