San Antonio settles lawsuit over ‘sponge rounds’ shooting at 2020 George Floyd protest

Alexander Lance was shot twice with less-lethal ammunition; city agrees to pay $119K

San Antonio – The City of San Antonio will pay $118,800 to a man whom San Antonio police shot twice with less-lethal ammunition during a May 2020 protest.

The demonstration was one of many that broke out across the country following the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis Police. In San Antonio, a peaceful march later devolved into broken windows, graffiti, a few arrests, and San Antonio police firing riot control weapons, including at Alexander Lance, who was hit in the arm and leg.

Lance was not arrested or charged with a crime. His attorney, Tim Maloney, said Lance hadn’t participated in any of the protests. Instead, he and two friends had “decided to go downtown and witness the march,” according to the lawsuit.

Maloney said Lance had to stay multiple nights in the hospital, and his injuries included a broken arm.

Lance originally sued the city and the officer who shot him, identified at the time only as “John Doe,” in the 166th District Court, alleging excessive force and indifference to his medical needs. The case was kicked to federal court in September 2021 and was later expanded to include nine other officers.

The San Antonio City Council approved the settlement Thursday morning as part of its consent agenda, an omnibus vote on dozens of routine items. Councilman Manny Pelaez (D8) was not present for the vote.

City Attorney Andy Segovia told KSAT that the city always analyzes the risk of going to trial versus settling. The city sometimes settles, he said, even when it believes it has a good chance of winning on the merits of a case.

Asked about the decision to settle, Maloney said clients go through fatigue with lengthy cases. He also said the issue of qualified immunity — legal protection for government officials such as police officers — would likely have brought the case before the reliably conservative 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, where it would be an uphill climb.

But pointing to statements Chief William McManus made shortly after the protest about police not having hurt anyone, Maloney said, “It was just a matter of not letting them getting away with it.”

“It may seem like a small sum, but the issue is that they were held accountable for their actions,” he said.

Though settlements typically avoid any acknowledgment of culpability, Maloney said, “Everyone knows the math. The City of San Antonio had to compensate this young man because an officer unjustifiably shot him at a damn near point blank range.”

‘That b**** better be on safety’

Lance took cellphone video of his own shooting. The 42-second clip, provided to KSAT by his attorney, shows Lance calling out to passing SAPD SWAT officers, saying, “That b**** better be on safety. That’s all I’m saying.”

A few seconds later, Lance’s video shows Ofc. Jesse Noriega approached with his SAGE gun raised. Noriega then shoots Lance in the right arm with what the city described as a “sponge round.”

Lance’s attorneys claim Noriega shot him in response to what he had said, while a city memo about the settlement states Noriega “believed (Lance) was about to throw an object at the officers.”

After he’s shot, Lance shouts, “I had a f****** cigarette!” Lance continues to curse, but the video does not appear to show him moving far from his original spot on the sidewalk.

Ten seconds after the first shot, as Lance shouts, “you f****** shot me, motherf*****!” Noriega fires again, hitting Lance in the leg with another sponge round.

Someone in the background can be heard yelling, “Hands up, bro! Hands up!”

Lance’s video shows him bleeding from the arm and leg. The video ends about 15 seconds after the second shot as Lance continues to curse and challenges police to “shoot me again.”

Lance’s lawsuit includes the nine other SAPD officers with Noriega that night since, according to the lawsuit, they all failed to render medical aid.

San Antonio police would not confirm Thursday whether any of the 10 officers had been disciplined for the incident. While the department maintains online records of officer suspensions, the records only extend back to 2021.

About the Authors

Garrett Brnger is a reporter with KSAT 12.

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