Family: Selfie attempt led to deadly assault of mentally ill man

Daniel Puente, 38, died 3 days after his aunt and caregiver says he was punched near a Northeast Side intersection

SAN ANTONIOWarning: This story contains images of injuries. Viewer discretion is advised.

The aunt and caregiver of a 38-year-old man with schizophrenia said his enthusiasm for a car may have prompted an assault that led to his death days later.

Lisa Davila said her nephew, Daniel Puente, was punched on Jan. 7 by the driver of a newer-style Ford Bronco near the intersection of Independence Avenue and O’Connor Road on the Northeast Side.

“He was trying to take a selfie in front of this Bronco, and the driver of the Bronco didn’t like what he was doing and he just punched him out the window, and he fell to the ground. And he got up, is what the eyewitnesses said, and was trying to walk back across the street and fell again,” Davila said.

Daniel Puente, 38, died on Jan. 10, three days after his aunt and caregiver said he was punched while trying to take a selfie with a newer-style Ford Bronco. (Lisa Davila)

Puente was taken to University Hospital, where Davila said they realized his brain was hemorrhaging.

“They said that he was talking in the hospital, too, and then all of a sudden he was repeating his name and repeating his address, over and over again. And then his pupils were fixed and dilated,” Davila said.

Emergency surgery was unsuccessful in stopping the bleeding, though, and Davila said the doctor told them parts of Puente’s brain were so bruised that he wouldn’t be able to walk again.

The family had previously seen the effects of a brain injury through Puente’s uncle and namesake, who had been in a 19-month coma after a car crash, Davila said. With that in mind, they made a difficult decision on Jan. 8.

“Danny’s mother was there also, and we were both just crying, crying, crying. And we said, ‘we don’t want this for Danny, and we want to take him off everything and just let him go peacefully,’” Davila said.

After Puente died on Jan. 10, the Bexar County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled his death a homicide due to blunt force injuries.

KSAT attempted to confirm the details in Davila’s account of the alleged assault with the San Antonio Police Department Friday. However, a spokesman said the department could not comment on the case beyond saying it was an active investigation assigned to the Homicide Unit.

The initial SAPD incident report states police were dispatched to a business at the intersection where they found Puente bleeding from his lip, with a bump on the back of his head. The responding officer reported Puente was “very intoxicated and could not tell us what had happened.”

Several callers said Puente had been assaulted or hit by a car, but the officer found no sign of being hit by a car. A cashier told police she had seen Puente talking to a man outside but hadn’t seen an assault or hit-and-run.

The responding officer wrote that Puente may have been assaulted, or he may have fallen “due to his intoxication.”

Davila, though, thinks any signs of “intoxication” were due to the brain bleed that was found later and pointed to the marked difference in his demeanor captured on security video.

The video from a nearby business shows Puente, who lived in an RV park nearby, walking casually through the parking lot toward the corner store at 1:45 p.m.

Though Puente is seen limping, Davila said that is due to a knee injury and otherwise judged him to be walking normally.

But when Puente appears on screen again 17 minutes later at 2:02 p.m., he seems to wobble side-to-side as he walks slowly away from the store and the San Antonio fire and police personnel who have arrived on the scene.

“He’s staggering. It’s 2 o’clock in the afternoon,” Davila said.

Davila had a message for whoever assaulted her nephew.

“Maybe you don’t even know what’s happened, she said. “But Danny was loved by a lot of people and had a life, and it was taken from him too soon. And, please, if you’re seeing this, turn yourself in. Please.”

About the Authors:

Garrett Brnger is a reporter with KSAT 12.

Sal Salazar is a photojournalist at KSAT 12. Before coming to KSAT in 1998, he worked at the Fox affiliate in San Antonio. Sal started off his career back in 1995 for the ABC Affiliate in Lubbock and has covered many high-profile news events since. In his free time, he enjoys spending time at home, gaming and loves traveling with his wife.