Bexar County DA reopens fatal SAPD shooting investigation after body camera footage surfaces

Eighteen-second clip of shooting emerges after city previously claimed Sgt. David Perry did not activate his body-worn camera

SAN ANTONIOUPDATE - This story has been updated to include a response from the city attorney’s office.

The Bexar County District Attorney’s Office has reopened its investigation of a 2019 San Antonio police shooting after body-camera footage of the fatal encounter surfaced this week.

City officials had previously stated publicly that there was no body-worn camera footage of the fatal shooting of Hannah Westall in a parking lot near Huebner and Vance Jackson since the sergeant who shot her had not activated his camera when responding to the call.

A source familiar with the shooting, however, provided the KSAT 12 Defenders an 18-second clip this week. The video was recorded by the body-worn camera of Sgt. David Perry and showed Perry repeatedly shoot Westall as she reached for a non-functional replica Uzi BB gun.

A spokesperson for Bexar County District Attorney Joe Gonzales released the following statement late Wednesday afternoon:

“There was no body worn camera video from Sgt. Perry provided to our office in the case file for the shooting of Hannah Westall. In response to an inquiry by our office, the lead investigator represented to our office that there was no video footage from Sgt. Perry’s body worn camera. As a result, our office did not review any body worn camera video prior to presentation to the grand jury. We have recently discovered that Sgt. Perry’s body cam video was included in his Internal Affairs’ file that our office independently obtained. In light of this additional evidence, this entire case will be reviewed again and presented to a different grand jury at a later date. Because this case is under review, we can make no further comment.”

The reopening of the case is the second high-profile stumble by SAPD related to the shooting investigation.

SAPD officials, including Chief William McManus, claimed for more than a year that Westall had pointed the weapon at Perry before being shot by him.

Dashcam video contradicts SAPD’s narrative that woman pointed weapon at sergeant prior to being fatally shot

Dash camera video of the shooting, however, showed Westall repeatedly being shot and the weapon falling behind her without it ever pointing at the officer.

After the Defenders exposed the discrepancy last August, SAPD officials amended Westall’s in-custody death report days later.

Adam Cortez, an attorney representing Westall’s family, released the following statement Wednesday evening:

“The family of Hannah Westall commends District Attorney Joe Gonzales for deciding to reexamine Hannah’s tragic and unnecessary death. From the inception of this case, there have been false statements regarding Hannah’s conduct coupled with a concealment of relevant evidence. First, Hannah’s family was told that she pointed her toy gun at Sgt. Perry. That falsehood was even placed in the Custodial Death Report which constitutes a crime and no action was taken regarding that illegal report. Then the City of San Antonio and SAPD refused to produce the dashcam and claimed that there was not any body camera footage because Sgt. Perry failed to activate his body worn camera. After a lengthy battle, the dashcam was produced but with no audio to firmly establish the fact that Hannah was telling Sgt. Perry she only had a toy gun. Now, 28 months after Hannah was shot five times including twice in the back of the head, we discover that there was body camera footage all along. These troubling facts and circumstances present a compelling reason for the District Attorney to reinvestigate Hannah’s death and to start an investigation into how such critical evidence was withheld.”

The body-camera footage is similar to dash camera video of the shooting released to the Defenders by the city last year.

The brief clip starts just as Westall falls to her knees and covers her head. Perry then circles Westall with his gun still pointing at her. His hand reaches for the camera, and audio is heard briefly before the audio and video both stop.

A spokeswoman for the city attorney’s office, which has been handling all media inquiries about the shooting, released the following statement late Wednesday night:

“At the time of the statement both the Chief’s Office and the City Attorney’s office understood that there was no body cam footage. The footage was recently provided to the City Attorney’s office in connection with the federal lawsuit. The footage is from Officer Perry unsuccessfully attempting to start his body cam. We are still trying to get details but apparently internal affairs had the footage but Homicide initially did not. Relevant documents, including the footage of the attempted start, was turned over to plaintiff’s counsel as part of the federal discovery process.”

A wrongful death lawsuit filed by Westall’s family in March against the city and Perry remains pending, federal court records show.


About the Author:

Emmy-award winning reporter Dillon Collier joined the KSAT 12 Defenders in 2016. Dillon's investigative stories air weeknights on the Nightbeat. He provides restaurant health reports for KSAT's "Behind the Kitchen Door." Dillon is a two-time Houston Press Club Journalist of the Year and a Texas Associated Press Broadcasters Reporter of the Year.