Bexar County Judge Peter Sakai addresses police shootings for first time

‘Public safety is of paramount concern,’ Sakai says in news conference

SAN ANTONIO – Bexar County Judge Peter Sakai on Friday made his first public comments on the recent rash of police shootings involving habitual violent offenders, saying there need to be “solutions to protect the community and to protect law enforcement.”

While Sakai released a joint statement with San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg on Thursday afternoon, saying the city and county plan to address the violence, the county judge refused to answer any questions himself until Friday.

KSAT reached out to Sakai’s office four separate times in a week for public comment on the shootings, but Sakai stayed silent.

“I hope that you understand that the silence on my part was not a disrespect to you, the media, but to put something together,” he said, adding he is also busy with the county’s budget.

Sakai said a series of meetings will be held soon involving city and county stakeholders to address the problem.

Details on those meetings have yet to be made public, but District 4 City Councilwoman Adriana Rocha Garcia plans to host a public safety town hall on Monday. Scheduled to attend are San Antonio Police Chief William McManus, Bexar County District Attorney Joe Gonzales and Deputy City Manager Maria Villagómez.

In addition, San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg and Bexar County Judge Peter Sakai announced plans to host a similar event to develop plans to reduce police shootings. Details of the meeting have yet to be announced.

Gonzales has been on the defense after McManus put some blame for the shootings on the county’s prosecuting office, saying that the shootings all involved people who were repeat criminal offenders who should have been behind bars.

While the district attorney is an elected position, Gonzales also has to answer to Sakai as the head of the county government.

“Unfortunately, it appears that the district attorney and the chief of police have a difference of opinion. I trust that the district attorney and the police chief could sit down and work it out,” Sakai said.

Since Aug. 24, there have been five incidents where a police officer was either shot by a suspect or shot a suspect. Six officers have been injured by gunfire including an officer who accidentally shot himself in one of the incidents. In three of the incidents, police shot and killed the suspect involved.

The county judge said the issue of repeat, violent offenders being out on the streets due to low bonds is a “complex issue.”

“We’ve got to make sure that people who are a threat, and perhaps we need to look at whether we are using threat assessments so that somebody who has a violent criminal offense isn’t given a personal recognizance bond. We’ve got to make sure that bonds not only protect citizens in keeping locked up, but it also means we need to respect the individual’s right to a fair bond,” Sakai said.

The county judge said that it may legislative action to address the bond problem.

You can watch Bexar County Judge Peter Sakai’s press conference in the video player below:

Police Shootings Timeline

  • Aug. 24 -Jesse Garcia, 28, allegedly shot at San Antonio police officers and wounded three of them. He was arrested after barricading himself inside an apartment for hours. The two most seriously injured officers were Officer Raul Chavez and Officer Rhett Shoquist, who was shot in the head. Both survived and have been released from the hospital. SWAT Officer Adam Rule was struck in the forearm by a round fired through the patrol vehicle’s window. A light affixed to the shoulder of a fourth officer — Josue Vallejo-Martinez — was struck by gunfire, but the officer was uninjured.
  • Aug. 30 - Michael Kirkland, 40, opened fire at drivers and police officers on an East Side highway and was killed by police, according to SAPD. Officer J. Owen was shot and hospitalized.
  • Aug. 30 - Officer John Helle accidentally shot himself during a foot chase where officers fatally shot 21-year-old Victor Fernandes in a Home Depot parking lot.
  • Sept. 4 - Officers Juan Dominguez and Matthew Raste shot and killed Jacob String during a pursuit on the Southeast Side near Southcross and Prestwick.
  • Sept. 5 - A San Antonio police officer was shot on the city’s Southwest Side near the 200 block of Iroquois Street. Suspect Dominick Rubio was arrested and charged with attempted capital murder of a police officer, violation of bond and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

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About the Authors:

David Ibañez has been managing editor of since the website's launch in October 2000.

Garrett Brnger is a reporter with KSAT 12.