Texas county to buy more body cameras after deputies shown shooting suspect

Reuters News
Posted: Sep 01, 2015 2:23 PM

By Jim Forsyth

SAN ANTONIO (Reuters) - County commissioners in the San Antonio area on Tuesday approved funds for additional body cameras for sheriff's deputies, a move that comes hours after the release of a video showing two deputies appearing to fatally shoot a man who had his hands up in the air.

Bexar County Commissioners also asked the sheriff's department to review the department's "use of force" policy following the release of the cell phone video shown on local TV that shows Gilbert Flores, 41, being fatally shot in an incident on Friday with two deputies.

The two deputies and the victim were Hispanic.

The Texas shooting came after questions have been raised about racial bias in U.S. policing due to incidents that sparked protests nationwide, including the killing of an unarmed black teenager in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri, about a year ago by a white officer.

Bexar County deputies had been called to a domestic disturbance in an upscale neighborhood last Friday. They encountered a woman and a three-week-old old baby who had been injured, and also found Flores, 41, who police said in a report was "armed."

"The deputies attempted to use less than lethal methodologies," sheriff's spokeswoman Rosanne Hughes said on Friday. "When that did not work, they were forced to discharge their weapons."

The video recorded by a neighbor about a block away and aired on station KSAT-TV appeared to show Flores raising his arms as if surrendering before being shot.

"The video of Gilbert Flores' fatal shooting by two deputies raises serious concerns over whether these officers used force that was proportional to the circumstances," said Terri Burke, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas. 

In a statement, Sheriff Susan Pamerleau asked for calm.

"We are diligently working to complete the investigation, so we can move to the next step," she said.

Sheriff's department officials said the video only recorded the last few minutes of a lengthy encounter and did not include any audio of the conversations.

A new law that took effect in Texas on Tuesday provides state funding to get body cameras onto more officers in more departments across the state.

Many U.S. cities have moved toward supplying body cameras to patrol officers following rising tensions and protests over what critics see as an indiscriminate use of force by police against unarmed civilians, especially racial minorities and the mentally ill.

(Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Sandra Maler)