Bexar County grand jury ‘no-bills’ SAPD officer who shot, killed man in mental health crisis

Joe Gonzales: ‘We have deferred to the judgement of the citizens of Bexar County.’

John Pena Montez, 57, was shot and killed by an SAPD officer March 26. (Joshua Saunders, KSAT)

SAN ANTONIO – A Bexar County grand jury has no-billed a San Antonio police officer who shot and killed a man last year whose family members described him as being in the midst of a mental health crisis.

John Pena Montez, a 57-year-old military veteran, died March 26, 2021, after officers were called to a home in the 1300 block of Brighton Avenue.

Bexar County District Attorney Joe Gonzales released the following statement to KSAT:

“I am holding to my commitment to take all officer-involved shootings involving serious injury or death to a Grand Jury. That’s what we have done here. We have deferred to the judgement of the citizens of Bexar County. This Grand Jury voted to return a no-bill. We can make no further comment on the matter. A memo detailing the facts of the case will be posted to the Civil Rights Division website soon.”

SAPD has identified that officer as Stephen Ramos — the same officer who shot and killed a 13-year-old boy in early June, less than 16 months after Montez was killed.

The grand jury did not find probable cause for an indictment in the Montez shooting, but the teen’s death is still under investigation.

SAPD confirmed Ramos is on administrative duty.

Family claims footage contradicts SAPD narrative of Montez’s fatal shooting

According to SAPD records, Montez slapped his common-law wife in the face, came within arm’s length of her while armed with a knife and was a threat to her and three children at the home after he got inside by shoulder-checking a door.

The incident report states that Montez was holding a knife when he lunged at two officers, later identified as Ramos and Douglas Meynig.

Family members dispute that account.

“When the word ‘lunge’ came up, I thought back and I said ‘where is this lunge being talked about done by John that would have justified the shooting?’” Montez’s brother-in-law, Charles Felder said during a 2021 interview with the KSAT 12 Defenders.

Meynig, who the Felders’ described as being farther away from Montez than Ramos, unsuccessfully deployed his stun gun twice.

Ramos, a one-year veteran of SAPD, then fired at Montez, the incident report states.

Montez, who suffered two gunshot wounds to his upper chest, died at the scene.

Montez’s family was able to view body-worn camera footage of the shooting in April 2021 and want the footage to be released publicly but SAPD Chief William McManus said he would not do so.

“Release it. We want transparency. Help us get that transparency. If you know us, then you know that we want the truth,” said Montez’s sister, Debra Montez Felder.

Both she and her husband described the viewing of the footage at headquarters as “hostile,” stating that a deputy chief who took part in the April 2021 viewing, abruptly ended the meeting after the couple had been allowed to watch the short clip only twice.

She said the approximately 90-second clip, recorded by Ramos’ body-worn camera did not provide a sufficient account of what happened near the entryway to the home that ended with her brother being shot and killed.

Montez Felder described the deputy chief as “aggressive” and claims that after the couple asked to view the footage a third time, he told them it was a waste of time.

“The Department disagrees with this characterization and this is precisely why we record these interactions,” an SAPD spokeswoman said via email in May of 2021.

SAPD introduced a body-worn camera video release policy in December, claiming at the time that it was created to enhance public trust and increase transparency following so-called “critical incidents.”

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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.

Julie Moreno has worked in local television news for more than 20 years. She came to KSAT as a news producer in 2000. After producing thousands of newscasts, she transitioned to the digital team in 2015. She writes on a wide variety of topics from breaking news to trending stories and manages KSAT’s daily digital content strategy.