SAN ANTONIO – The City of San Antonio has settled a seven-year-old lawsuit of a man who died as police handcuffed him and held him down on the side of a busy highway in April 2013.
Without any public discussion, San Antonio City Council members approved the $466,300 settlement with the family of Jesse Aguirre, whose 2015 federal lawsuit accused San Antonio Police officers of violating Aguirre’s constitutional rights and “suffocating” him when they confronted him as he walked along U.S. Highway 90.
The case had been scheduled for jury selection in May before the two sides agreed to settle. Although the city itself was no longer a defendant in the lawsuit, City Attorney Andy Segovia told reporters the city had an obligation to defend the four officers who were still listed as defendants.
“We’re never sure of an outcome in a jury trial, even though we may be fully confident that we’re prepared,” City Attorney Andy Segovia said after council’s vote.
According to police reports, Aguirre, 37, was arguing with a girlfriend in a stolen car when he crashed into a fence near Zarzamora and U.S. Highway 90 on April 12, 2013.
Minutes before, officers noticed he was no longer breathing.
Resuscitation attempts were unsuccessful, and the Bexar County Medical Examiner’s Office reported Aguirre died from “excited delirium associated with cocaine and ethanol intoxication.”
Because he was restrained by police, his death was classified as a homicide.
A medical expert who reviewed the case for the family, however, cast doubt on the existence of excited delirium syndrome (EDS) in a January 2016 report and said Aguirre’s death was “more likely than not preventable.”
One of the attorneys for Aguirre’s family, Matthew Gossen, said if the case had gone to trial, he believed whichever side lost likely would have appealed.
The City of San Antonio and eight SAPD officers were all originally listed as defendants, but over the course of the case -- which included a dismissal in U.S. District Court before a successful appeal by the family’s law team up to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals -- the list was narrowed down to just four officers.
A city spokeswoman said none of the eight officers were disciplined for the incident, and five of them are still active.
The money from the settlement will be split three ways, with Aguirre’s estate getting $100,000, his wife getting $166,300, and his son getting $200,000.
This is the third lawsuit related to SAPD the city has settled in a little more than two months.
City council members unanimously voted on May 5 to approve a $450,000 settlement in the wrongful death lawsuit of Antronie Scott, who was shot and killed by an SAPD officer in 2016.
A month earlier, council members approved a $300,000 settlement with the state for a 2018 lawsuit that accused SAPD Chief William McManus and the city of flouting a state law that requires local governments to cooperate with federal immigration authorities.
As in the Aguirre lawsuit, the other two cases were also on the verge of going to trial.
Segovia suggested the timing of the three settlements was related to a COVID-related backlog of court cases that has started moving again.