SAPD officers recall harrowing pursuit of machete attack suspect

Fernando Quiala sentenced to 8 years in prison after plea deal

By Dillon Collier - Investigative Reporter

SAN ANTONIO - Police dashboard camera and helicopter camera video provided to the KSAT 12 Defenders show the tense, more than 20-minute-long pursuit by San Antonio Police Department officers of a man who had just cut up two women with a machete inside a home north of downtown.

The Bexar County District Attorney's Office released hours of footage of the August 2017 capture of Fernando Quiala after he agreed to plead guilty last month to two counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

Both women suffered severe injuries during the attack but survived, according to SAPD.

A charge of evading arrest related to the chase was dismissed as part of Quiala's plea agreement with prosecutors, according to court records.

Quiala, 45, was sentenced to eight years in prison, fined $1,500 and ordered to avoid contact with one of his victims, court records show.

Quiala, whose criminal history in Bexar County dates back more than 20 years, refused to pull over after an SAPD officer spotted him fleeing from a home in the 200 block of Army Boulevard.

Officers called to the home for a reported cutting in progress found the house's front door barricaded.

An officer was able to remove burglar bars from a window and get inside, according to an SAPD incident report.

Once inside, officers found a "tremendous amount of blood," a woman lying on the floor covered in blood with a large cut on her face and a second woman in a chair applying pressure to a large cut on her arm, according to the report.

Away from the scene, officers pursued Quiala, still armed with a machete, as he fled in a van.

"Instead of responding to where they were, I tried to respond to where they were going to be," said Officer Robert Barrera, who joined the chase at U.S. 281 and Mulberry Avenue.

Barrera served as the secondary officer, calling out each turn Quiala made, until SAPD's Blue Eagle helicopter spotted the van and took over calling the pursuit.

Barrera can be heard on a police radio during the chase imploring Blue Eagle to lock onto Quiala's vehicle as he pulled away from officers on U.S. 281 South.

"First and foremost, we don't want anyone to get hurt," said SAPD helicopter pilot Officer Edward Ramirez, who controlled Blue Eagle's camera and took over calling the chase as a second pilot maneuvered the helicopter.

Video shows Quiala jumping a curb and then driving through a grass median before turning onto Mulberry Avenue.

The pursuit, which lasted over 23 minutes, included over 30 turns and twice traveled down U.S. 281 South during morning rush hour.

"With that many cars on the road, it's a recipe for disaster, really," Barrera said.

Detective Gabriel Gallegos took part in the ground pursuit.

"It's an older neighborhood, so those streets are very narrow," said Gallegos when describing the portions of the chase that wound through a neighborhood off Kings Court.

Remarkably, Quiala only made slight contact with a parked truck on Myrtle Street near McCullough Avenue and avoided hitting a moving forklift on East Locust Street -- the only two close calls visible in the footage.

The three officers, who have a combined 60 years of experience with SAPD, credited the department's training staff for their ability to remain calm throughout the pursuit even as they learned that Quiala had the machete inside the van.

Barrera pointed out that officers go through driving training at the department's track as cadets and as probationary officers, and then yearly once they are full-time officers.

The chase ended in the 700 block of Euclid Avenue as Quiala's van slid next to a utility pole while he was trying to avoid another vehicle.

Ramirez is heard on the radio warning officers on the ground that Quiala was likely going to resist being arrested.

"He wasn't going to go willingly, and it showed," said Ramirez.

Footage shows Quiala exit the van and begin to scream at officers while pounding his chest.

Gallegos and Barrera said Quiala told the approaching officers to shoot him.

"He was yelling at both of us as we approached. Our weapons are drawn. We know he has a machete. As we're approaching, I can see the machete," said Barrera.

"I thought he was going to grab it for sure," said Gallegos, who said the machete was visible on the floorboard of the van.

Footage shows Gallegos, who did not draw his weapon, grab Quiala before Barrera approaches and delivers several strikes to the suspect's head.

Quiala continued to struggle with officers even after they had him on the ground on his stomach, the footage shows.

"The general public's OK, we're all OK and he's in jail, and that's a good thing," said Barrera.

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