SAN ANTONIO – UPDATE - The article has been updated to include a statement from SAPD on why Schiller has not yet been charged
A retired detective from the San Antonio Police Department has been named as a suspect in an aggravated assault case captured on cell phone video, according to a preliminary report released by police this week.
According to the report, John Schiller, whose name was left unredacted, is accused of pulling out a handgun late last month on a man he believed stole his ex-wife’s phone.
The man told police and KSAT 12 he didn’t steal the phone but was in fact planning to return it after finding it in the street. He told the man he texted the woman to set up a return of the phone.
The encounter happened Sept. 27 at the Home Depot parking lot located off Loop 1604 and Culebra road on the far West Side.
According to cell phone video shot by the victim, Schiller points a handgun at the man and at one point pushes the man to the ground right in front of the store.
“I tell you what I’m going to do, you stole the phone,” said Schiller while being recorded, after the victim asked if Schiller was going to shoot him.
“Get on the ground. Get on the ground now! Get on the (expletive) ground. You think I’m playing?” said Schiller as cell phone video appears to show him push the man against a vehicle outside the store.
A second angle recorded by a person in a vehicle shows Schiller holding a handgun while he and the victim walk near the entrance of the store.
The police report noted that the man had a bloody lip and that Schiller punched him at one point during the altercation.
During the encounter, you can hear the man pleading with Schiller that he didn’t steal the phone.
City of San Antonio officials confirmed Wednesday Schiller was hired by SAPD in 1987 and retired from the department at the rank of detective in March 2019.
Texas Commission on Law Enforcement officials confirmed Thursday Schiller has not had a commission with a law enforcement agency in this state since leaving SAPD.
“Actually with his background as a police officer, he should know more than anyone how inappropriate that was,” said Kevin LaChapelle, a former police officer turned criminal justice professor and police accountability expert.
“In law enforcement you’re taught, you don’t pull out your gun unless there’s obviously a need for it, like somebody showing force that you have to meet with it. The reality is, that was egregious and there were people put in danger,” said LaChapelle.
According to the police report, the phone belonged to Schiller’s ex-wife. She said she couldn’t find her phone, so she contacted one of her daughters who said she left the phone on the hood of her car. She believed it fell off as she drove away.
The victim said that he found the phone and an ID in the street in a neighborhood, according to the report. He said he was going to return the phone after stopping by Home Depot to pick up supplies for work. The man told police he answered the phone when it rang and told the person the same thing, according to the incident report.
The report says Schiller’s ex-wife and her daughter got in their cars and started tracking the phone. The woman called police and they told her to stop tracking the phone, according to the report.
The phone’s GPS led them to a store near Galm Road and Culebra Road, according to the daughter’s statement to police.
They say they saw the man but did not make contact with him “because they did not know for sure who had the phone,” the report says. Once they saw him drive off, they saw the phone’s location on the tracker start to move again," according to the report.
The man told police that he was on Culebra Road when Schiller’s ex-wife “started banging on his window in the middle of the street,” the report states. He said he started yelling at her because he didn’t know who she was.
The woman said she walked up to his vehicle and asked for her phone. She said that the man told her that “she was ungrateful and to get back into her vehicle,” according to the report.
The woman got back into her car and followed him to a corner store on Alamo Parkway and Culebra Road. She said she asked the man for her phone again and that he threw her phone at her feet and he took off, according to the incident report.
The man told police that he threw the woman’s phone and drove off until he arrived at the Home Depot.
He said he parked his van and Schiller approached him aggressively, the report states. The man said he started to record on his phone.
“Dude, I am going to whoop your (expletive),” Schiller is heard saying before he and the victim struggle off camera.
While Schiller told officers who responded to the scene that he identified himself to the man as a retired police officer, the man told officers Schiller identified himself as a police officer.
Donna Coltharp, assistant law professor at St. Mary’s University School of Law, prefaced her comments on the footage Thursday by saying the case will be litigated in the courts and that the footage only provides a slice of what happened.
“It almost looks as though he is attempting to effectuate a citizen’s arrest or that he believes he can do that under those circumstances. It doesn’t appear to me in this video or from my reading of the police report that this man had the kind of knowledge that he would need in order to effectuate a citizen’s arrest,” said Coltharp, who pointed out that in order for a citizen to make an arrest the crime would have had to occur in his or her presence or know that a felony offense had taken place.
In the video, you can hear Schiller demand that the man get on the ground. He said Schiller started to punch him, according to the report.
No arrest was made, but Schiller’s gun, which was loaded, was taken in as evidence, the report states.
The offense listed on the police report is aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, which is a felony.
San Antonio police officials said the case remains under investigation and did not respond to numerous follow-up inquiries about why Schiller has yet to be charged.
The victim told KSAT 12 on Thursday he believes Schiller has not been charged because of his past connections to SAPD, an allegation an official with the agency disputed Thursday evening.
After the story aired on television, an SAPD spokesperson said via email:
The victim has unfortunately not come in to make a statement. The lead Detective has reached out but we are still waiting on him to come in. He is scheduled to come in with his attorney but we unfortunately can not move forward until he gives a statement. Last thing I want is for the public to receive misinformation on a case we are handling. We do not condone any preferential treatment and will do our due diligence in the cases we handle no matter the suspect.
Reached for comment Thursday night, the victim’s wife said her husband had made several calls to the detective in the case and was hoping to provide his formal statement Monday with his attorney present.
Schiller did not respond Thursday to phone calls and a text message to a listed phone number for him.