Video shows melee in Bexar County courtroom as murder suspect is attacked, beaten by victim’s family

Family members of shooting victim Ethan Soto attended a hearing for Victor Nathaneal Rivas

SAN ANTONIO – A murder suspect was attacked and beaten in a Bexar County courtroom Friday by family members of the teen he’s accused of killing.

A video of the incident was shared widely and sent to multiple KSAT journalists, though it’s unclear who took the video inside 144th District Court.

According to a statement from the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office, family members of shooting victim Ethan Soto attended a hearing for Victor Nathaneal Rivas, who is charged in Soto’s death.

BCSO said after Rivas made a gesture toward Soto’s family members, they jumped a partition in the courtroom and began assaulting Rivas.

Two sheriff’s bailiffs broke up the initial incident, but then other family members “became disruptive,” BCSO said.

Four people were arrested following the incident — two adult males and two juvenile males. They will be charged with assault and disrupting court proceedings, BCSO officials said.

According to a previous report, Rivas, who was 17 at the time of his arrest in September 2022, is accused of shooting 15-year-old Soto in May of 2022 in an act of revenge for a drug robbery.

Rivas’ attorney Adam LaHood told KSAT that his client was in court Friday for a routine preliminary hearing and said the courtroom brawl was “certainly unexpected” and “not something you ever want to see happen.”

LaHood said Rivas is “swollen and bruised” likely with a black eye and bruised face.

LaHood said some of Soto’s family members had been asked to leave the courtroom at least one other time for outbursts but that “nothing like this” had occurred in previous court appearances. LaHood expected the family members involved in the incident would be barred from future court proceedings.

Court staff for Judge Michael Mery in 144th District Court did not respond to a phone message seeking comment Friday.

Judge Ron Rangel, administrative judge for the Bexar County criminal district courts, said Judge Mery hit a panic button and left the courtroom as he’s been instructed in the past to do.

“You think about courtrooms, you’re bringing in victims of violent crimes with people that are accused of committing those violent crimes, so often times courtrooms can become powder kegs. One little spark can ignite,” said Judge Rangel.

Judge Rangel confirmed Friday afternoon that Rivas was treated by paramedics at the courthouse.

Judge Rangel said it is unlikely any of the people charged with the assault will be permitted to attend upcoming court hearings.

The four people taken into custody face misdemeanor charges of assault causing bodily injury and impeding a court proceeding by disorderly conduct, Judge Rangel confirmed.

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.

Emmy-award winning reporter Dillon Collier joined KSAT Investigates in September 2016. Dillon's investigative stories air weeknights on the Nightbeat and on the Six O'Clock News. Dillon is a two-time Houston Press Club Journalist of the Year and a Texas Associated Press Broadcasters Reporter of the Year.

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