SAN ANTONIO – San Antonio Police Department officials have amended a 2019 in-custody death report to reflect that a woman shot and killed by a sergeant at a North Side shopping center did not point a weapon at the officer prior to her death.
The amended report, submitted to the Texas Attorney General’s Office August 13, now states that 26-year-old Hannah Westall “reached” for a firearm prior to being shot by Sergeant David Perry. Previously, the department had publicly maintained that Westall pointed a replica firearm at the officer before he killed her.
The amendment comes days after the KSAT 12 Defenders published and aired a story that showed dash camera video of the incident and questioned the official narrative provided to media and to the state by SAPD.
The report’s summary since March 2019 had stated that Westall pulled the firearm from her waistband and pointed it at the officer prior to him firing at her.
The decision to amend the death report came days after the Defenders investigation revealed that SAPD Chief William McManus’ account of the shooting and the in-custody death report- both stated that Westall pointed the weapon- was contradicted by the police footage.
It is the third time since October 2018 that information provided by McManus about a fatal shooting involving his officers was later refuted by video or had to be corrected by McManus himself.
The weapon carried by Westall at the time of her death turned out to be a non-functional replica of a handheld machine gun.
In a demand letter sent to the city by an attorney representing Westall’s family earlier this year, the attorney said the footage shows Westall trying to explain that she is not in possession of a real weapon.
“You see her say ‘it’s a toy, it’s not real. Wait!’ And then five shots: one, two, three, four, five, including the one as she’s falling that went through her head that killed her,” said the family’s attorney, Adam Cortez.
Officials from the Bexar County District Attorney’s Office, which has routinely confirmed information about whether a police officer has been cleared of criminal wrongdoing after shooting a suspect, did not respond to repeated requests from the Defenders over multiple weeks about the Perry case.
Cortez said Perry was cleared of criminal wrongdoing late last year, and pointed to Perry being back on patrol as an indication that there is no pending criminal case against him.
Last week McManus, who was not made available for an interview because of threatened litigation from Westall’s family in the case, released the following written statement:
“When I give information at a scene it is preliminary and subject to change as the incident is investigated. I always make that point very clear to the media. In this case what I was told at the scene is that the woman turned and pointed a gun at the Officer. The investigation, including review of video, confirms that she was reaching to pull out a gun she had visibly demonstrated to have in her possession. This was a terribly unfortunate incident. The officer’s actions were reviewed independently by the Bexar County District Attorney’s Office and determined to be justified.”SAPD Chief William McManus
Cortez sent the following statement Monday night:
“The amendment of the SAPD custodial report to the Texas Attorney General’s Office is a small step in the right direction after Hannah’s mother was told first by Chief McManus, then by Homicide detectives, and finally by Internal Affairs officers that her daughter was shot to death because she pointed a gun at Sgt. Perry. Unfortunately, it is a very small step in the right direction because the report still claims that Hannah was “erratic,” and that she was “carrying an Uzi style firearm” as opposed to what it should say and that is that she was walking in a parking lot with a “toy replica of an Uzi on the back of her sweat pants.” Most importantly, the report still falsely claims that Hannah “refused to follow commands.” If SAPD is in possession of evidence that Hannah, “refused to follow commands,” they should share it with the public in keeping with its stated objective to “provide greater transparency, build trust, and facilitate community engagement…” Thanks to Sgt. Perry’s failure to activate both his body cam and dash cam, there is no audio available to show that Hannah refused commands, and the video we do have contradicts that allegation because it reveals that Hannah stopped on command, slowly raised her arms, slowly turned to her side, and told the officer her toy was in fact a toy. If SAPD wanted to make amends for its handling of Hannah’s case, it could have and should have done so the instant it learned that Sgt. Perry failed to give Hannah the opportunity to surrender her toy and in the process violated all police techniques regarding how to approach a person under such circumstances. Instead, City officials and SAPD chose to conceal what took place for as long as they could and they are still avoiding the need for better police training and reform so that we do not have any more tragic Hannah Westall incidents in the future.”