Tuesday, August 26, 2014
"Here in a quiet, peaceful neighborhood of a small town in South Texas, in an instant can turn into tragedy, as it did," stated Bexar County Sheriff Susan Pamerleau.
During the past few weeks the national news has slogged it's way through coverage of peaceful demonstrations that end with looting, endless analysis of scenarios, demands for immediate answers and justice and endless hours of film coverage of a funeral. What has been clearly missing from all the media coverage of one young man's death is the reporting of two officers shot in the line of duty.......... one is fighting for his life and the other is dead. Trayvon has been pathetically thrust into the days of media debates but these two officers and their stories have been almost completely absent.
Elmendorf Police Chief Michael Pimental began his long career in law enforcement in the Austin Police Department and later went on to become the police chief of the San Antonio Independent School District. In May of 2013, he became the police chief in Elmendorf Texas, a small town of about 1,500 residents which lies about 25 miles southeast of San Antonio TX. The police department there is made up of just two officers and ten reserve officers and he was well liked in the community.
On Aug 19 2014, Pimental received a call around 9 am from the city's water administrator, notifying him that a marked city truck had been vandalized. He was told that someone had tagged the truck with spray paint while it was parked at the city cemetery. Pimental began his investigation, which turned out to be fairly easy because Jeanette Moreno, 26, had witnessed the incident from her front porch.
She described to him seeing a small silver car with front end damage drive by and she recognized the driver as a former friend of her brother's. The car drove by again slowly and the driver appeared to throw something into the back of the truck this time. The driver returned a third time and seemed to checking for the city worker before he rolled down the window and started doing something. She saw the paint after he drove away from the truck. She then went over and told the city worker what she had seen.
Pimental identified the suspect as Joshua Manuel Lopez, 24, as the driver of the car. He had an arrest warrant made out for the misdemeanor graffiti charge and listed the value of the damage to the city truck as $185. On Aug 23 2014, Pimental stopped Lopez while driving his car and attempted to serve the misdemeanor warrant. A witness states that she saw the two get into an altercation and there were three shots fired.
Pimental had been shot in the shoulder and the abdomen and fell to the ground. He had called for another officer to assist as back-up on the stop but he had already been shot by the time the other officer had arrived. He was flown to University Hospital by helicopter but he was pronounced dead on arrival.
Lopez did not have a criminal history before the shooting and he was taken into custody at the scene of the shooting. He has been charged with capital murder of a police officer and is being held on $1 million dollars bond. He has been described as quiet and had some sort of history with the police as well as possibly having some mental health issues. Either way, a misdemeanor ticket has left a long time police officer dead.
On August 22 2014, Officer Gabriel Garcia, 31 and his rookie partner stopped six people who were walking along Garner Ave in San Bernadino CA. The group had left a nearby bar and seemed suspicious while they stood in the cul-de-sac area at 2 am. The officers stopped to question the group of six people and when they did, one ran off. Another, Alex Alvarado, 38, opened fire on the officers with a sawed-off AK-47 style rifle.
Garcia was shot once in the head and twice in the upper body and is in extremely critical condition at Arrowhead Regional Medical Center in Colton. He is in a medically induced coma after going through surgery and is said to be fighting for his life. Garcia is a highly decorated six year veteran of the police force and his father Ron Garcia is a captain with the same department. He has spent much of his career on patrol.
The department has not released the name of the rookie that had only been out of the police academy for a couple of months yet. It is that officer that carried on the gun battle that ensued, with more than 30 rounds being fired. Alvarado was hit and later died at the hospital. Officers have stated that the trainee had done exceptionally well under the circumstances and five people were eventually taken into custody.
Orlando Cruz, 24, was arrested for outstanding traffic warrants and Jonathon Contreras, 20, was held for suspicion of attempted murder, possession of a gun with a sawed-off barrel and possession of an assault rifle. He is believed to be the owner of the rifle that Alvarado had used in the shooting.
Alvarado had convictions for DUI, grand theft and assault with a deadly weapon. In 2009, he was sentenced for a second DUI convictions, fined $130 and ordered to complete an alcohol program for repeat offenders. He did not do either and in 2011, his probation was revoked. He had not shown up for that hearing and was then declared a fugitive.
This was the second time that he had had his probation revoked. He had pleaded guilty to the assault with a deadly weapon charge in 2004 and failed to meet 7 of the 17 conditions imposed for his probation. Alvarado knew that he would be arrested and sent back to jail for the outstanding warrant when the officers stopped to talk and it is believed that it may be the reason for the shoot out.
It seems that during the past two weeks, with all the protests and complaints of how police have used excessive force on "unarmed" victims............ two officers faced deadly force during what should have been fairly routine stops. It certainly is sad that there has been very little said about these two officers. I have watched the concerned citizens on Ferguson complain about a young man who "was shot down in the street like a dog" but what about these officers, doing their job in a non threatening manner. They were shot down in the street like dogs.
When they debate the use of deadly force by police officers, they should include the other side of the debate.......... police officers shot down while they are doing their job. Not busting into a drug den, not facing a peaceful protest that has become a looting riot. Police officers calmly trying to do what they were hired to do and either paying with their lives or fighting for them.
What is the scale for "justified" use of firepower by civilians when they are stopped by the police?
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Update Aug 27 2014:
Police have now charged Jonathon Contreras, 20, Orlando Cruz, 24 and Gonzalo Medina, 22, each with two counts of attempted murder of a peace officer and one count of possession of an assault weapon. Medina had fled the scene before the shooting began but police believe that all the men knew about the AK-47 before the officers stopped to talk to the group. Police also recovered a 38 caliber handgun and that is the gun they believe was used to shoot officer Garcia.