‘What may look awful is not unlawful’: former SAPD officers charged with assault argue they were doing their job

Carlos Castro and Thomas Villarreal face up to life in prison if found guilty

SAN ANTONIO – Two former San Antonio police officers are on trial for “pummeling” a man inside his East Side home in January 2020.

But a defense attorney for Carlos Castro and Thomas Villarreal argued the pair were justified in repeatedly punching Eric Wilson as they arrested him after an attempted traffic stop.

The pair had a “rough job dealing with rough people and sometimes were required to do rough things” and “what may look awful is not unlawful,” defense attorney Jason Goss said in his opening statement.

Castro and Villarreal were arrested and charged with aggravated assault by a public servant in December 2021 due to an excessive use of force incident on Jan. 16, 2020.

The incident also got them fired from the department, though they are appealing the decision.

The officers on that night pulled over a car traveling 48 mph on North Walters Street, where the speed limit is 35 mph. The car also failed to signal prior to turning onto Lamar Street, police said.

Officers activated their emergency lights and approached the car, which had pulled into a driveway on Lamar Street.

Wilson, who was driving the car, got out of the vehicle and walked away from officers, who noted that the vehicle was emitting a strong odor of marijuana, according to the police report.

Police bodycam video played in court Friday showed Wilson walking away from his car into the front door of his home on Lamar Street as at least one officer drew his gun and shouted for him to stop and show his hands.

You can watch both officer’s body cam videos in the players below. Content warning: violence and language

“He (Wilson) reacted, ‘I’m not sure I want any of this,’ and he went into his home,” said Daryl Harris, head of Bexar County District Attorney’s Office’s Civil Rights Division, during his opening statement.

Wilson, who took the witness stand Friday, said he didn’t notice the officers until he got out of his car, and he didn’t stop because “I know I wasn’t even in trouble. So why would I stop?”

Wilson’s brother can be seen on the video exiting the front door and asking ‘What’s going on?’ as Wilson slips in behind him.

The video then shows Villarreal and Castro trying to force their way in by kicking the door and lodging a chair into it once it partially opens. Villarreal also tries unsuccessfully to use his Taser.

As police yell for Wilson to put his hands up, Wilson can be heard saying through the door that the officers don’t have a warrant.

Goss argued that Wilson -- who has a lengthy criminal record that includes a conviction for murder, was on federal supervised release, and was later found to have methamphetamine in his car -- had been hoping to avoid going back to prison.

“You cannot have ‘olly olly oxen free,’” the defense attorney said. “You can’t say, ‘I’m carrying drugs. I don’t want to get arrested. I don’t want to get stopped. I’ll run in my house and now I’m safe.’”

Harris said “six, seven officers” eventually came through the door.

“In the two minutes of that entry, Wilson was pummeled 20-plus times about his head and face, fracturing his eye socket, breaking his nose, causing serious bodily injury to his eye, impaired his vision,” the prosecutor said.

Wilson’s mugshot showed injuries visible around both of his eyes.

Two officers were fired after beating Eric Wilson, who was arrested on drug charges in January. (KSAT)

The bodycam video shows Wilson being taken to the ground and officers landing numerous blows while shouting “show me your f****** hands!”

Both Villarreal and Castro had Wilson’s blood on their bodies, according to the police report. Villarreal sustained a bruised hand from the incident.

Goss said police were concerned Wilson might have a weapon, so they punched him repeatedly until they could see his hands.

“If you show your hands, you don’t get punched. If you won’t show your hands and resist arrest, you will get punched,” he said.

Prosecutors, though, said Castro and Villarreal didn’t correctly apply the law when it came to arresting Wilson.

If convicted, the former officers could face up to life in prison.

About the Authors:

Garrett Brnger is a reporter with KSAT 12.

Erica Hernandez is an Emmy award-winning journalist with15 years of experience in the broadcast news business. Erica has covered a wide array of stories all over Central and South Texas. She's currently the court reporter and cohost of the podcast Texas Crime Stories.