Murder charges for San Antonio law enforcement rare, cases are tough for attorneys to try

Three San Antonio police officers indicted Thursday in connection to murder of Melissa Perez

SAN ANTONIO – It’s rare for law enforcement officers to get charged with murder in San Antonio and a challenge for prosecutors to prove the crime to a jury.

On Thursday, a Bexar County grand jury indicted three San Antonio police officers in connection with the June 2023 shooting death of a woman inside her Southwest Side apartment.

Melissa Perez, 46, was experiencing a mental health crisis and had a hammer in her hand when police shot her through a patio window and door, according to SAPD Chief William McManus.

Officer Eleazar Alejandro and Sgt. Alfred Flores face a charge of murder. Officer Nathaniel Villalobos faces a charge of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon by a public servant in connection with the death of Melissa Perez, Bexar County District Attorney Joe Gonzales said at a news conference Thursday.

One of the last times a Bexar County jury decided a law enforcement officer’s fate in a murder case was in 2016.

Anthony Thomas, 38, was accused of shooting and killing Matthew Jackson, 29, after the two got into a car crash on Aug. 31, 2013, along Loop 1604 near Lookout Road.

Thomas, who was a Bexar County deputy in uniform but off-duty, said he felt threatened when Jackson approached his vehicle.

In less than two hours, a jury found Thomas not guilty of murder. 

Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler said it’s tough to prosecute cases involving law enforcement.

“It’s extremely difficult, simply because I think most people, rightly so, want to have confidence in their local law enforcement to protect them,” he said. “And I agree with that.”

Kunzweiler was the district attorney when jurors found a Tulsa police officer not guilty of killing Terence Crutcher, an unarmed Black man, while on the job.

KSAT asked Kunzweiler what the most challenging part of the case was.

“When a prosecutor is put in the position where they may actually have to accuse somebody that they’re working with on a day-to-day basis, those pressures are difficult, and relationships can get strained,” he said.

Eric Smenner, a longtime defense attorney in the Dallas area, is a former officer who has represented several law enforcement officers accused of crimes.

“You have to take into consideration the fact that these are peace officers who are out in the streets attempting to protect people and to make sure that folks are safe,” said Smenner.

He said officers are held to a higher standard but also experience intense situations.

“Officers go to someone’s worst day of their life every day of their lives,” said Smenner.

He added that “trying to find a middle ground between, you know, what they’ve done and what people expect from them, it can be difficult.”

About the Authors

Daniela Ibarra joined the KSAT News team in July 2023. This isn’t her first time in the KSAT newsroom– the San Antonio native spent the summer of 2017 as an intern. Daniela is a proud Mean Green alum, earning her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of North Texas.

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