Grand jury declines to indict Bexar County deputy in fatal shooting of veteran Damian Daniels

Daniels was suffering from a mental health crisis when he was shot by Deputy John Rodriguez

A photograph of Army veteran Damian Daniels is displayed before mourners during his funeral at Alabama National Cemetery in Montevallo, Ala., on Friday, Sept. 11, 2020. Daniels, an Alabama native who served in Afghanistan, was fatally shot by a sheriff's deputy at his home in San Antonio, Texas, last month. Relatives say he was troubled mentally. (AP Photo/Jay Reeves) (Jay Reeves, Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

SAN ANTONIO – A Bexar County sheriff’s deputy who shot and killed a veteran suffering a mental health crisis will not face criminal charges after a grand jury declined to indict him, the Bexar County District Attorney’s Office confirmed on Monday.

Damian Daniels was shot and killed outside his home by Bexar County Sheriff’s Office Deputy John Rodriguez on Aug. 25, 2020 during a mental health check in the 11000 block of Liberty Field. The shooting sparked criticism from Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff and sparked a new program designed to better respond to mental health calls.

The case was presented to a grand jury by the Bexar County District Attorney’s Civil Rights Division. After reviewing the evidence presented to the panel, the grand jury issued a “no bill of indictment,” clearing Rodriguez of criminal charges. Officials said a detailed memo “explaining the facts and laws considered in this case” will be posted on the civil rights division website on Tuesday.

“The death of Mr. Daniels was tragic. This country needs to do a better job of helping those in mental health crisis,” Bexar County District Attorney Joe Gonzales said in a statement. “We have reviewed the video with the Daniels family and have informed them of the Grand Jury’s decision. As I have stated in the past, every officer-involved shooting in Bexar County resulting in serious injury or death will be decided by a Grand Jury.”

Daniels’ family had previously called on authorities to release body camera footage of the incident. They had also called for the resignation of Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar over “material misrepresentations” after he released still images of the struggle.

Salazar said Daniels was erratic and began to reach for a gun in his waistband, leading to a physical struggle that Salazar said lasted for longer than two minutes before Rodriguez opened fire.

Though Salazar said he was “not happy” with the outcome of Daniels’ death, he said he was “in awe” of the level of restraint his deputies showed before the fatal shooting.

But Brendan Daniels said deputies initiated the physical confrontation first by trying to reach over and grab his brother’s gun.

“All of that was untrue,” Brendan Daniels said. “My brother never became aggressive. He never reached for his weapon. When (Deputy Enrique Cepeda) reached for his weapon, my brother put his hand over the gun so that it would not come out of the holster so that it would not endanger himself.”

About an hour after the announcement of the grand jury decision, BCSO released the video. According to BCSO, the video shows the shooting of Daniels, deputies speaking to him and 911 calls.

Read more:

Family fights for release of body cam footage months after combat veteran fatally shot by BCSO deputy

Bexar County Judge questions why deputies were called out to troubled combat veteran’s home

Bexar County sheriff releases photos of struggle moments before deputy fatally shot man


About the Author:

Fares Sabawi has been a journalist in San Antonio for four years. He has covered several topics, but specializes in crime, courts, open records and data visualization.