District Attorney addresses criticism from SAPD chief, SAPOA about ‘habitual offenders’ on the streets

Five police officers have been shot in the last week pursuing suspects with active warrants

SAN ANTONIO – After a week where five San Antonio Police Officers were shot while pursuing suspects with active warrants and violent criminal histories, Bexar County District Attorney Joe Gonzales is addressing criticism from SAPD Chief William McManus and San Antonio Police Officers’ Association President President Danny Diaz.

“Again, we have another officer in the hospital being shot by an individual we were trying to arrest and take off the streets because he was wanted on violent felony warrants,” McManus said after an incident on Wednesday afternoon.

A 40-year-old gunman who was wanted on multiple felony warrants and a misdemeanor warrant opened fire at drivers and police officers on an East Side highway. One officer was wounded before the suspect — who has been identified as Michael Kirkland — was shot and killed by police. Kirkland had a lengthy criminal history, but he was not convicted of the last seven charges on his record.

Hours after that shooting, another officer suffered a gunshot wound while pursuing two car burglary suspects. The officers shot and killed one of the suspects after he allegedly pulled out a gun. McManus said both suspects had criminal charges, but their charges were dismissed, and they spent no time in jail.

“It’s been a rough day. It’s been a rough couple of weeks,” McManus said. “I don’t want to get into a back and forth with the DA, but I just know that this happens in many, many, many cases. This isn’t an anomaly here... this is happening over and over and over again.”

Last week, another shooting left officers hospitalized. The officers were injured when 28-year-old Jesse Garcia allegedly opened fire on them as they tried to take him into custody on outstanding warrants just southwest of downtown. Records show Garcia has a criminal history dating back to his teens. He had been let out of jail twice in the past year.

“I remain concerned about people who are on the street who should be in jail because they’re habitual offenders, especially the violent crime habitual offenders,” McManus said at the scene of Wednesday’s incident.

District Attorney Joe Gonzales held a press conference Wednesday evening to address these concerns and why the charges were dismissed against Kirkland.

“I heard part of Chief McManus statement, and I will agree with him on several points, one of which is that this man could be characterized as a career criminal,” Gonzales said.

“I’ve heard the term accountability tossed around,” Gonzales said. “And I’ll tell you that my definition of being accountable is being answerable, being liable to the community. The community of Bexar County are the individuals that voted me into office, that kept me in office, and I am answerable to the entire community, and that’s what I’m doing today is explaining or answering how this man got away.”

With seven separate cases since late 2019, Gonzales said the dismissals were typically due to lack of evidence, not able to locate victims or witnesses, or another technicality.

“This man has had incredible luck because every one of those cases where we’ve tried to go to trial, where we’ve tried to make him accountable, we’ve been unable to do that because of proof problems,” Gonzales said during the press conference. “That’s the situation we find ourselves in.”

Gonzales said when it comes to a criminal case, they have to be able to prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” that the crime was committed. Otherwise, the suspect will not be convicted.

Below is a list of the seven criminal cases brought to the DA involving the suspect that were dismissed, according to Gonzales:

  • Sept. 2, 2019
    • Aggravated Assault w/ Deadly Weapon
    • Unable to locate victim, case dismissed
  • Sept. 5, 2019
    • Family violence assault
    • Missing victim/complainant
    • Case dismissed
  • Sept. 11, 2019
    • Arson of Habitation
    • Couldn’t locate complainant, didn’t have critical witness to prove arson
    • Case dismissed
  • Sept. 20, 2019
    • Evading Arrest with a vehicle
    • Insufficient evidence to go forward; DA never received video detailing chase from law enforcement
    • Case dismissed
  • Nov. 27, 2020
    • Aggravated Assault w/ Deadly Weapon
    • Victim was an individual who was sentenced to prison. By the time the DA’s office located him and reached out, asking for cooperation, he wasn’t interested.
    • Case dismissed
  • July 15, 2023
    • Terroristic threat
    • Active warrant -- not arrested
  • August 2023
    • Aggravated Assault Against Public Servant
    • Case filed by Somerset Police Department
    • Active warrant -- not arrested

“This individual was a habitual offender... But that doesn’t mean anything for punishment if we can’t even get that far,” Gonzales said.

According to Bexar County court records, Kirkland’s criminal record dates back even further to the year 2000. It’s unclear if he faced any prison time for those charges.

As for criticism about bonds being set too low for criminals, Gonzales said he’s just following the legal system.

“As has been explained before, with very limited exceptions, everyone, including someone who’s accused of murder, has a right to a bond and so long as that person has the ability to bond out, that person may be released and may be walking the streets among the rest of us if he can afford a bond. And so that’s the system that we have today. And that’s why I’ve been harping since I’ve been in office that our bail bond system ought to be based on risk, not based on how much money an individual has sitting in his bank account,” Gonzales said.

Gonzales said he takes issue with recent comments that he attributed to SAPOA President Danny Diaz inferring that Gonzales wasn’t doing his job. On Thursday, Diaz called on Gonzales to resign.

“You know, I swore an oath when I was elected back in 2019 and was re-elected and began my second term earlier this year was to do everything I could do to keep our community safe. But we still have obligations as lawyers. We still have to go to court and prove these cases, regardless of how much I want to keep this community safe. We have to do our jobs. And that requires us being able to prove these cases. So, I felt it was important to correct that narrative that we are not doing what we’re supposed to be doing, that I am not doing enough as a leader of this huge office and in keeping our community safe,” Gonzales said.

You can listen to Gonzales’ full press conference in the video player at the top of this article.

About the Authors

Julie Moreno has worked in local television news for more than 25 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.

Patty Santos joined the KSAT 12 News team in July 2017. She has a proven track record of reporting on hard-hitting news that affects the community.

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