BCSO deputy cleared of manslaughter charge speaks out after ‘stressful’ week under indictment

Criticism of DA Joe Gonzales over handling of situation mounts from many sides

In his first public comments since being cleared of criminal wrongdoing in the shooting death of a man in Elmendorf in 2020, Bexar County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Brandin Moran said Thursday his brief indictment for manslaughter had a significant emotional impact on him and his family.

“I don’t even know how to describe it. I mean it was probably one of the worst weeks that I’ve ever had to go through, stress wise,” said Moran.

Last week, Moran was charged with manslaughter after a grand jury determined he recklessly caused the death of Jesus Garcia, 47, in March 2020, after the deputy responded to a mobile home in the 17000 block of Blue Horizon for a domestic disturbance.

Garcia, according to county officials, was using a potentially deadly weapon, a screwdriver, to pin his wife to the ground when Moran came into the home.

Moran then fired his service weapon at Garcia, killing him, officials previously said.

Last week’s indictment, which came two years after the shooting and a year and a half after Moran had been cleared by BCSO to return to duty, stunned the deputy, who was on duty and in the process of booking a suspect when he learned a warrant had been issued for his own arrest.

“It was stressful, very stressful,” said Moran, who became the first peace officer in Bexar County in a generation to be indicted for shooting and killing someone while on duty.

By Friday, however, the second-degree felony charge against Moran had been dismissed by Bexar County District Attorney Joe Gonzales, who claimed in a lengthy written statement that he did not believe his office could prove the case against Moran beyond a reasonable doubt.

Moran’s attorney, Nico LaHood, said Thursday it was “shameful” the case was even presented to a grand jury and that a large number of use of force experts had already reached out to testify within days of Moran being charged.

“When Brandon entered the scene he (Garcia) was mounted on her, with the screwdriver in his hand after being commanded multiple times to let her go,” said LaHood.

LaHood and several other attorneys have said the labeling of Moran’s indictment, which starts with “Count II,” likely indicates that the DA’s office presented evidence to possibly indict Moran for murder.

He added that if the manslaughter case had moved forward to trial, it would have had a “chilling effect” on law enforcement officers throughout the county.

Nico LaHood previously served as Bexar County District Attorney before losing to Gonzales in the 2018 Democratic primary. His brother, Marc LaHood, is running against Gonzales for the office in November.

Gonzales, who was not made available for an interview for this story, released a lengthy written statement last week outlining why he chose to dismissed the charge against Moran.

The statement read in part:

“Consistent with our obligation to only prosecute cases we can prove, we decided we could not go forward for two reasons. First, Texas law allows police to use lethal force to defend to prevent or stop an aggravated kidnapping. In this case, Deputy Moran discovered Jesus Garcia in possession of a potentially lethal weapon while also pinning his wife on the ground and refusing to let her go. We would have to disprove that this defense applied beyond a reasonable doubt. We do not believe we can do that. We may quarrel with the law, but it is the law. Second, under Texas law, we would also have to disprove that Deputy Moran acted to defend Ms. Garcia’s life. Given that Mr. Garcia held a potentially lethal weapon and had his wife essentially held hostage, we do not believe we could make this showing beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Bexar County District Attorney Joe Gonzales

Criticism of Gonzales’ handling of the case has mounted from multiple sides in the days since he announced the dismissal.

Ananda Tomas, executive director of the San Antonio public safety reform group ACT 4 SA, applauded the grand jury’s decision only to experience “extreme disappointment” after learning of the dismissal days later.

“The first step in these kinds of cases is just to get the grand jury to indict. And we finally get an indictment after we haven’t seen this for so many other cases,” said Tomas. “I think that that’s something that we need to hang onto, to give us a little bit of hope and encouragement. But it’s also made it clear that the next step is to make sure we have a strong district attorney that can prosecute these cases to at least give the family their day in court.”

Gonzales’ decision ignored the concerns of the grand jury, Tomas said.

“And then the district attorney of all people decides he can’t prosecute on this, when a grand jury of our peers, our community members said ‘we think there’s enough here to prosecute on.’ So, I’m as flabbergasted as I am disappointed,” said Tomas.

Garcia’s family said this week they had been “betrayed by the system and victimized all over again.”

Jesus Bonito Garcia (KSAT)

“After waiting for more than two years, the District Attorney’s office finally presented our father’s case to the grand jury, only to turn around and ignore the grand jury’s decision. Whether or not Deputy Moran is guilty was a decision for a jury to make. The District Attorney’s message seems clear to us: the police in Bexar County know they can shoot someone without being held to answer in a court of law,” said Jessica Garcia, Jesus Garcia’s daughter, in a statement released Monday.

Moran was immediately cleared to return to duty after the DA’s office dismissed its case against him.

Moran told the Defenders on Thursday he is planning to return to work within the next few days.

A wrongful death lawsuit filed against Moran and Bexar County in federal court this month remains pending.

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About the Authors:

Emmy-award winning reporter Dillon Collier joined KSAT Investigates in September 2016. Dillon's investigative stories air weeknights on the Nightbeat and on the Six O'Clock News. Dillon is a two-time Houston Press Club Journalist of the Year and a Texas Associated Press Broadcasters Reporter of the Year.

Joshua Saunders is an Emmy award-winning photographer/editor who has worked in the San Antonio market for the past 20 years. Joshua works in the Defenders unit, covering crime and corruption throughout the city.