The closed circuit video footage of the Texas police officer that fatally shot a handcuffed prisoner last year was released Monday after a grand jury declined to indict the officer.
The video, taken March 8, 2013, shows El Paso Officer Jose Flores and an unidentified corrections officer struggle to control a handcuffed Daniel Rodrigo Saenz, 37, as he flails on the ground outside the El Paso County Jail. Moments later, Officer Flores steps away from the altercation and fatally shoots Saenz in the shoulder, El Paso Times reports.
Saenz, who was a competitive bodybuilder, was arrested that day for assaulting a police officer. A later autopsy would reveal he tested positive for dimethylamylamine, or DMAA, the substance found in the synthetic stimulant known as bath salts.
While Flores booked Saenz into jail, the suspect “struck his own head into the doorway causing himself injury,” and jail staff said he needed to be transported to the hospital.
And that’s when the fatal confrontation with Saenz began. Flores takes a step back from Saenz and appears to struggle with removing his Taser before successfully unholstering his sidearm and firing a single round.
According to Jim Jopling, the lawyer who represented Flores, even though Saenz was handcuffed with his hands behind his back, he still posed a threat to Flores’ safety.
“The video does not show an important event that happened earlier in the day,” Jopling said. “When Mr. Saenz was in his holding cell at the Pebble Hills Regional Command Center, he was observed moving his cuffed hands from behind his body to the front of his body. This is called ‘fronting’ his cuffs. Mr. Saenz, who was in bare feet, put his shoes on and, when finished, moved his handcuffs back behind his body. Mr. Saenz did this with great agility and speed.”
“In the video, Officer Flores first reaches for his Taser. However, he decides not to deploy his Taser because he knew that Mr. Saenz – also earlier that same day – had undergone five cycles of the Taser device, without effect. He had been Tased earlier in the day after he assaulted a police officer and other people at the hospital where he was being evaluated.”
Jopling said that Flores drew his weapon because “Saenz could quickly front his cuffs and turn them into a deadly weapon, given his considerable strength, agility, and demonstrated resistance to the Taser … At the same moment Officer Flores draws his weapon, Mr. Saenz pushes off on that curb and, with remarkable strength, sends the civilian escort flying backwards. The civilian escort’s arm then hits the trigger hand of Officer Flores, causing his weapon to discharge.”
Flores was also the El Paso police officer who bought a homeless man a pair of boots and sock in January of last year.
[ El Paso Times ]