BEXAR COUNTY, Texas – The Bexar County Sheriff’s Office is withholding video of a shooting and standoff in the first test of a 10-day video release policy, though Sheriff Javier Salazar says it is the “decent and right thing.”
Robert Inosencio, 18, was found dead at the end of an April 5 standoff that started with a deputy being shot and wounded while trying to arrest Inosencio on two felony warrants at a far West Side home. It is not yet clear if deputies shot Inosencio or if he killed himself.
This was the first critical incident since Sheriff Salazar agreed in February to have his office comply with a 10-day release policy similar to SAPD’s, which county commissioners had passed in December.
However, on Thursday -- 10 business days after the standoff -- BCSO announced on Facebook it would not release the video, per the family’s request.
On Friday, BCSO provided KSAT with a copy of a signed statement from Inosencio’s mother stating that she had seen the video of the shooting involving her son and deputies, and “after reviewing the video, I have decided that I would not like it to be released to the public and kept private for the ongoing court proceeding.”
The policy, which commissioners approved at a Dec. 7 meeting, is similar to the one used by San Antonio police, although it uses a 10-day turnaround for video instead of a 60-day time frame. The commissioners agreed not to fund any further body camera purchases unless the requesting agency adopted the policy.
Salazar did not agree to the 10-day turnaround until two months later when commissioners agreed to a bundle deal including upgraded body camera technology, which Salazar said he needed to meet that time frame.
Speaking with KSAT on Friday, Salazar said the video is complete and ready to send out, and that it was only being withheld because of the family’s wishes.
The sheriff said his agency has its own release policy, which “may have a lot of wording in common with the document put forth by commissioners court. But at the end of the day, I set policy for the sheriff’s office. We have a policy for the sheriff’s office.”
The sheriff said he plans to keep a family’s discretion on releasing video of critical incidents within that policy.
“I think that there’s certainly precedent. We’ve seen other agencies that go through this sort of process that they take that into consideration,” Salazar said. “And I mean, and absolutely, you know, there’s the public’s right to know on certain things. However, with regard to a grieving mother and having to take those feelings into consideration and just trying to do the decent and right thing, I’m going to do it.”
SAPD Chief William McManus had refused to release video of a fatal January 2021 shooting outside South Park Mall, citing concern for the mother of the man who was shot by four SAPD officers.
The county policy that commissioners passed requires any reason for delaying the release of video to be reviewed by the district attorney “to validate the reason or non-concur.”
It is not clear if BCSO’s policy includes similar language. Although KSAT requested a copy on Friday, it was not provided by publication time.
A spokeswoman for the Bexar County District Attorney’s Office told KSAT via email it had been at the meeting between the Inosencio family and BCSO, during which the family said they didn’t want the video released, but “the decision to release body worn camera video is within the purview of the sheriff.”
Former Precinct 3 Commissioner Trish DeBerry, who is now running for county judge as the Republican nominee, had pushed for the 10-day turnaround and told KSAT the April 5 video should have been released.
“We had a deputy sheriff that was wounded in action, was actually hospitalized associated with the incident that happened,” DeBerry said Friday. “Many times law enforcement don’t have the luxury of deciding, ‘Do we release, or do we not release?’ And so from a consistency standpoint, whether it’s the victim or whether it’s the law enforcement official, we have to have a consistency, and we have a policy in place to release the footage within 10 days and there has to be consistency.”
DeBerry said she had “empathy for the family’s request,” but picking and choosing exceptions becomes a “very slippery slope.”
“When I talk about the slippery slope regarding decisions that are made -- exceptions that are being made across the board -- if we do that and we continue to do that, the policy then becomes a paper tiger policy with no teeth,” she said.
Commissioners passed the county policy at a time when the family of Damian Daniels was pushing for the release of the August 2020 video of his shooting death at the hand of a BCSO deputy during a mental health check.
BCSO publicly released the video a little less than two weeks after commissioners passed the body camera policy.
Ananda Tomas, the executive director of the police reform group Act 4 SA, was supportive of releasing video of the Daniels shooting and instituting a short turnaround period for videos of similar incidents, but she also supports BCSO’s decision to withhold the video in this instance.
“I think that this is a good practice to follow,” Tomas said. “In many cases, the families do want the video released for transparency and accountability. But this is very sensitive subject, and their wishes should always come first on the release of body camera footage or not.”
Tomas said she was optimistic about the use of the 10-day policy and hoped the example would “translate down” to SAPD and other local law enforcement.