BAYTOWN, Texas (AP) — Robert Cameron Redus was five months from graduating with a seemingly bright future ahead as he drove home from a night of celebrating the end of the semester at the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio.
The former co-valedictorian of his suburban Houston high school had made the dean's list at his Catholic university and was active on campus, according to friends and family, who described him as a caring and compassionate soul.
But the 23-year-old never made it home in the early morning hours of last Friday. He was shot five times by a campus police officer, Cpl. Chris Carter, who said Redus attacked him during a traffic stop and refused to back down, according to the authorities.
More than 500 of Redus' family and friends gathered Thursday in his hometown of Baytown to remember him at a memorial service. Many are demanding answers to questions surrounding Redus' death, including how the unarmed student could have supposedly pushed around an officer twice his size and why the officer felt it necessary to fire six rounds at Redus.
"Our family does not believe the officer's report. Cameron has never been an aggressive or confrontational person," Redus' family said in a statement.
At the memorial service, Redus was recalled as someone who was passionate about life and who sought to help others.
"His inspiration was love and he loved so well and he loved so much because he was loved so well," a tearful Luke Davis, a longtime friend, said during the more than hourlong service that included Redus' older brother Kris singing several songs. Redus was to be cremated at a later date.
Richard Pruitt, the police chief in Alamo Heights, an incorporated city within San Antonio and where the shooting happened, said this week that he doesn't know if his department's investigation, once it's completed, will change some people's minds.
"They know him as a different person and it's going to be very difficult I think in some cases for some people to accept that something else may have happened," Pruitt said.
Carter's attorney, Mark Kosanovich, didn't immediately respond to a phone message or email seeking comment Thursday. Carter was put on administrative leave after the shooting, as is standard in cases involving officer-involved shootings.
According to Pruitt, Carter saw Redus driving erratically at around 2 a.m. last Friday and followed Redus back to his apartment complex about a mile north of campus. The two men struggled after Redus resisted Carter's attempts to handcuff him, Pruitt said.
"During the physical confrontation lasting a little over six minutes, Carter instructed Redus 14 times to place his hands behind his back and informed him three times he was under arrest and to stop resisting 56 times," Pruitt said.
During the struggle, Redus took away Carter's baton and hit him with it, Pruitt said. Carter got it back and the two struggled until Redus broke free.
Carter told investigators that he warned Redus to stop or he would shoot, which he did when Redus charged at him with his arm raised as if to strike the officer, Pruitt said.
One witness has told investigators he saw a "violent struggle" between the two, Pruitt said. Police have not publicly identified that witness or witnesses who reported they had heard the confrontation.
Authorities say Redus had been drinking earlier in the evening. Toxicology test results are pending.
A dash-camera on Carter's patrol vehicle didn't capture any video of the incident. But the audio was working and Pruitt said it seems to follow Carter's version of events.
Pruitt said investigators will look into Carter's work history. Carter did not have any disciplinary actions or suspensions, according to the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement. Records showed he has worked for eight different agencies in the last nine years.
Jonathan Guajardo, Redus' friend and fellow university student, said he doesn't believe Carter.
"A lot of students at the university feel that as well. It's completely out of" Redus' character," Guajardo said.
Guajardo questioned how his much smaller friend was able to wrestle away the officer's baton and pin him against a wall.
Frank Scafidi, a law enforcement expert and retired FBI agent, said the investigation will probably hinge on whether authorities believe Carter felt he truly was in danger.
"There is an individual decision that's made by an officer in any altercation like that. At what point do you personally feel your life is threatened or you're in danger of getting (hurt)? And there doesn't have to be a weapon involved," he said.
Follow Juan A. Lozano on Twitter: https://twitter.com/juanlozano70