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The family of a former combat veteran who was shot and killed by a Bexar County Sheriff’s deputy is on a mission to get the body-worn camera footage of the deadly encounter released.
Former Army Sgt. Damian Lamar Daniels was killed on Aug. 25 on his front porch in the 11000 block of Liberty Field after the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office responded to a mental health check.
Daniels' mother, Annette Watkins, and his brother, Brendan Daniels, are still trying to figure out how the encounter escalated.
“How do we go from, ‘I’m gonna take your brother to get help.’ to ‘Oh, there was an altercation and now your brother’s deceased.’ It makes no sense,” said Brendan Daniels, who lives in Colorado.
According to Watkins, Damian Daniels was 20 years old when he enlisted in the U.S. Army in 2010. After serving for six years and doing a tour in Afghanistan, the Alabama native chose to make San Antonio his home.
On Aug. 24, Damian’s brother said he called the American Red Cross in San Antonio for help after noticing his brother was experiencing paranoia symptoms. The American Red Cross connected him with BCSO’s dispatch, and a deputy was sent to check on Damian that day. However, the deputy wasn’t able to make contact with him.
Damian Daniels called dispatch himself the evening of Aug. 24, according to Sheriff Javier Salazar.
“Mr. Daniels actually called dispatch himself, saying that he was hearing things. He felt there was a ghost in the house and that he was feeling paranoid,” Salazar said in a briefing on Aug. 26.
Daniels' family said he felt like “someone was trying to make him fight.”
Daniels spoke to the responding deputy on the evening of Aug. 24 but chose not to leave, according to Salazar. Deputies cannot force someone to go with them if it is a welfare check.
Daniels' brother and mother said he hadn’t experienced mental health episodes before the days leading up to his death. They believe the loss of his sister, father and uncle in the months before his death may have been weighing on him heavily and that he may have been dealing with other stress that triggered him to have a mental breakdown.
On Aug. 25, BCSO responded to Daniels' home twice. Watkins said she had encouraged her son to answer the door the second time. His brother did the same.
“So I figured, you know, worst-case scenario, they’re going to call me back, let me know that he doesn’t want to go with them,” Daniels' brother said.
Instead, he received a call that his brother was dead. Daniels' family said this was the ending that they feared.
“There’s no reason that a veteran should have to be killed at their own home in America,” Watkins said.
Salazar said Daniels became erratic and grabbed a deputy’s stun gun. Daniels allegedly then reached for his own gun, and deputies struggled with Daniels over the weapon for more than two minutes before a deputy shot him twice in the torso, according to Salazar.
“He only became defensive if they became combative with him,” Daniels' brother said.
The family is working with the Grassroots Law Project, an organization that describes itself as providing “legal support to transform justice in America,” to get BCSO to release the video.
“If everyone can see what happened so that we can know the truth, I think that’ll be better off for our family. It’ll be better off for the world, and we can start to make change. Damian would want us to make change,” Daniels' brother said.
In the days after Daniels’s death, Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff directed his county manager to look into policy changes on how mental health calls are handled.
In October, the county implemented new policies on how mental health calls are dispatched and required a mental health professional and paramedic to respond to specific calls.