SAN ANTONIO – The family of a woman shot and killed by a San Antonio police sergeant in the parking lot of a Northwest Side shopping center as she reached for a non-functional replica weapon has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city and the officer, federal court records obtained Friday by the KSAT 12 Defenders show.
The filing of the suit by the family of Hannah Westall comes a day before the two-year anniversary of the shooting.
Westall, 26, was reaching for a non-functional replica Uzi BB gun on March 20, 2019, when SAPD Sgt. David Perry repeatedly shot her.
Perry happened to be leaving a nearby business and was the first officer to respond after a police dispatcher received a 911 call for a distraught woman with a possible machine gun tucked in her back waistline, SAPD records show.
The suit, filed in federal court Friday, accuses Perry of rushing up on Westall as she walked through the parking lot and accuses him of violating her constitutional rights by shooting her five times, killing her.
“The city is directly responsible for this tragedy because of its failure to train its officers like Sgt. Perry in the proper use of deadly force. The city is also directly responsible because it wholly failed to train its officers like Sgt. Perry on proper practices and procedures in responding to calls for persons experiencing mental health issues,” Adam Cortez, an attorney representing Westall’s family, told the Defenders Friday.
SAPD dash camera video obtained by the Defenders last year contradicted the department’s long-held narrative that Westall was shot and killed by Perry after pointing the weapon at him prior to being shot.
The dash camera video of the shooting instead shows Westall repeatedly being shot and the weapon falling behind her without it ever pointing at the officer.
Days after the Defenders investigation aired in August, SAPD amended its in-custody death report for Westall to accurately state that she “reached” for the weapon prior to being shot by Perry.
An SAPD spokeswoman on Friday referred inquiries about the lawsuit to the city attorney’s office.
City Attorney Andy Segovia, through a spokeswoman, released the following statement Friday afternoon:
“We have reviewed the complaint and will defend it vigorously. While a tragic event, we do not expect our officers to wait for a gun to be pointed at them before they make the split-second decision to use deadly force. Here, an individual clearly reached for what appeared to be a gun. The officer reacted consistent with training and sound judgment given the situation.”
Perry accused of using improper police techniques
The suit accuses Perry, who at the time of the shooting was a 23-year veteran of SAPD, of using a long list of “illegal responses” when he encountered Westall.
Perry rushed in at Westall, quickly closed space, immediately engaged her, shouted commands, escalated the situation and chose to use deadly force without being threatened, the suit states.
All of these actions from Perry were not proper responses, according to International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) policy, the suit states.
The suit also claims that SAPD’s use of force policies at the time of Westall’s death were constitutionally deficient and that Perry made false claims about the brief encounter while under oath.
The suit also accuses SAPD Chief William McManus and the city of having a policy of making false statements about fatal shootings to conceal constitutional violations.
The account of the shooting of Westall was one of three incidents within 15 months 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.
In October 2018, after an SAPD officer shot and killed someone inside a home in the 200 block of Roberts Street, McManus said the person killed was armed and a threat to the officer.
“The officer saw a weapon in one of the individuals’ waistbands and at some point thereafter, the officer ended up using deadly force on that individual,” McManus said at the scene.
The person killed, however, turned out to be unarmed 18-year-old Charles Roundtree Jr., who was sitting on a couch.
McManus, in a follow-up interview with KSAT said he was “purposely vague because we didn’t have all the facts,” before providing a correction that the person armed with a gun was shot by an officer, but that the bullet traveled through him and struck Roundtree, killing him.
In January 2020, after an SAPD officer and federal law enforcement agent shot and killed Randy Goodale while he sat in a truck outside a home in the 4400 block of Stetson View, McManus said the officers opened fire after Goodale “started ramming into occupied police vehicles.”
Home surveillance video obtained by the Defenders, however, showed that Goodale’s vehicle didn’t move until after he was fired upon.
When asked by a reporter at the scene why police officers opened fire, McManus doubled down: “Well, he was ramming the cars, for one. And there were officers in the vehicles whose lives were being threatened by that.”
The footage, however, showed that Goodale’s truck remained in a driveway and only after officers finished shooting did it slowly move down the driveway and bump into one of the parked, unmarked police vehicles.
That vehicle appeared to be unoccupied.