SAN ANTONIO – A man shot and killed by a San Antonio police officer during an alleged struggle outside his West Side home was identified by his family.
Darrell Zemault’s children say their father was shot in the back on Tuesday afternoon in the 100 block of Willee.
Three plain-clothed officers and two in uniform went to the home to serve two domestic violence arrest warrants on him, San Antonio Police Chief McManus said at a press conference.
When one of the officers tried to arrest Zemault in the front yard, he hit the officer in the face with a can of paint, sending both to the ground, McManus said. The police chief said he has not yet seen the body cam video of the incident.
The officers were wrestling when Zemault managed to grab the officer’s service weapon, and that’s when another officer shot him, McManus said. Zemault was taken to a hospital, where he later died.
The charges against Zemault were called into question by his daughter, Susie Zemault, who doubted the domestic violence allegations reported by her father’s girlfriend.
Susie Zemault said her father had been with her mother for 30 years and had no prior history of domestic violence.
“For her to make those accusations and for the city to just jump on it, and accuse him and charge him because she said so, and then come to the house in an unmarked van, in regular clothing to serve him, and shoot him and kill him in the back, it’s unjust,” Susie Zemault said.
Neighbors said they, too, call the details in this investigation into question.
“How is someone a threat to you when you shoot them in them in the back,” said the family’s spokesperson. “He would literally give you his last! He literally just spoke to his attorney and said, 'I would never resist arrest because I don’t want to end up like George Floyd. He said that because he already knows what could happen in these situations. They picked the right family because we will not stop raising our voices now.”
Margie Alejo was a good friend and neighbor of Darrell Zemault.
“He was an awesome guy. When I first moved in here, I was pregnant with my son, and we got to bond with him and his family and his daughters. They are all great,” Alejo said. “(He’s) a good person to lean on when you really needed support. He was always there. He was not a dangerous person. He didn’t have that in his soul or demeanor, period.”
As a nurse, she said that when she realized what happened, she felt heartbroken that she couldn’t help.
“I just got off from work, and I waved at him, and he was like, ‘Hey!’ He was cleaning the furniture and was fixing it to sell it. I was about to take off my uniform, and that is when I heard a gunshot,” Alejo said. “When I went outside, I saw it was Darrell, so I got there, and I was wanting to help, but they kept telling me I had to stay away from the scene. I kept begging them to let me at least calm him down, and maybe he could survive, but they kept telling me to stay back. I had to be across the street watching my neighbor pass away in front of me. That is very heartbreaking, you know, and I told my husband I knew he wasn’t going to make it because he bled out. I am a nurse, and I know what that looks like.”
Bexar County court records show no domestic violence charges against Zemault, but show pending charges that include stalking and two counts of assault of a peace officer.
McManus stressed that the information he gave is preliminary and that details may change once investigators review footage of the incident.
“We release body-cam video when it is allowed by law, and right now, it is an investigation that is just beginning, so the answer to that question is no, we will not be releasing it,” McManus said.
District 5 Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales released the following statement after the shooting took place in her district:
“This is a tragedy that could have been prevented. It was an intimate partner violence case that should have been dealt with before it got to this point.
”This is an example of how public funds can be better used for intervention in social and mental health situations, before they grow to the point where the police have to be involved.
“We need to be smarter about how we fund and work on social and mental health needs and not place the burden on police who are trained to respond with force.
Sadly, this shouldn’t have happened and we should work to ensure that it doesn’t happen again.”