‘I’ve never seen this’: Bexar County district attorney says string of police shootings couldn’t have been predicted

DA Joe Gonzales holds press conference two hours after County Judge Peter Sakai broke his silence on the shootings

SAN ANTONIO – Bexar County District Attorney Joe Gonzales said no one could have foreseen the unusual string of police violence that has occurred recently.

Just hours after Bexar County Judge Peter Sakai made his first comments on the shootings Friday afternoon, Gonzales provided some clarity Friday on the criminal process of in the shootings.

“I’ve never seen this where we’ve had a cluster of violence directed to our law enforcement community. It’s very unfortunate,” Gonzales said. “No one person can be responsible for what’s happening now. There’s no way to predict whether that individual is going to shoot an officer.”

Gonzales said he’s been accused of having a “lax bond policy,” which some believe could have led to the shooting suspects being out on the streets.

However, he rebutted the claims and said if the cash bond system needs to be changed, it’s in the hands of the Texas Legislature.

“I’ve heard time and time again that the reason that these individuals have committed these shootings is because of my lax bond policy. I don’t have a lax bond policy because I don’t require prosecutors to recommend low bonds. I require them to use their better judgment,” Gonzales said.

“We cannot suggest that someone stays in jail pending their trial. They have a right to bond out because that’s what the Constitution calls for,” he added.

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.

San Antonio Police Chief William McManus said in each of these cases, the suspects were “habitual” criminal offenders with prior criminal records. He’s also blamed the DA’s Office for the criminal process that led to the suspects being free and on the streets.

When looking back at the police shootings over the last two weeks, Gonzales said not all of the suspects had violent criminal histories.

Two of the suspects had an “indication of violent history,” but the others that were arrested had non-violent offenses “that would not have indicated or raised any red flags” that their bond would need to be set any higher, according to Gonzales.

He said the average bond that is set for violent crimes in Bexar County is around $150,000. For aggravated robberies or other similar crimes, that amount drops between $75,000 - $100,000.

“It’s unfortunate that people have forgotten that law enforcement and prosecutors, we are all on the same side,” Gonzales said.

You can see a timeline of the recent police shootings below:

  • 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.

A public safety meeting is planned, but details have not yet been released.

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.

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