LOCKHART, Texas (KXAN) — The Caldwell County District Attorney has released the dash camera video of a sheriff’s deputy who shot and killed a man in Lockhart earlier this month.
District Attorney Fred Weber confirmed the family of Jesse Juarez viewed the video Monday morning, less than three weeks after the April 1 shooting.
“It’s difficult, it’s a family member obviously, but I felt courtesy dictated they be allowed to view it before it was released to the general public.”
Juarez’s family attorney, Trek Doyle, says the video “makes it clear that the tragic shooting… could certainly have been avoided with proper equipment and training.”
Doyle says Juarez suffered from mental illness and physical disabilities and his situation should’ve been handled without deadly force. “It is also evident that Caldwell County deputies lack basic training on how to address a person well-known by his community to suffer from mental illness,” wrote Doyle in a statement. Caldwell County deputies do not carry TASER-type weapons for encounters where force is required.
“We want to look into why this happened, how this happened. So that’s why we’re continuing the investigation,” said DA Weber.
“I think it’s going to be clear there are mental health issues involved. Our goal is to determine the extent (of those) and what role they may have played in this incident, if any,” Weber said, adding in the days before the shooting, police picked up and released Juarez after a report of a man walking on SH 130 which crosses through Lockhart.
DA Weber also revealed Juarez was a diabetic and had been in and out of a hospital around March 28th. He says he is sending subpoenas to local EMS and other medical providers as part of the discovery in the case.
“We have determined at 9pm on the evening preceding (the shooting) an officer saw Mr. Juarez in the Whataburger across the street. So we know he was in that neighborhood.”
Just after 4 a.m. April 1, Lockhart Police responded to a burglary in progress in the 1000 block of South Main Street. With additional officers responding to other calls, police asked for backup from the Caldwell County Sheriff’s Office. By 4:24 a.m., deputies arrived at the home and began questioning the homeowners. They told deputies a man broke several windows and verbally threatened them before running away.
911 calls reveal how frightened they were and that they didn’t know the man or why he was on their property.
As deputies searched for the burglary suspect, the homeowner alerted them the man, later identified as Juarez, had returned to the house. Deputy Michael Taylor said he observed the man carrying a long-handled weed cutter (see photo) known as a yoyo.
Video confirms the initial version from authorities of the confrontation. They said Taylor ordered the suspect to drop the weed cutter but he allegedly refused and with the long-handled tool raised, he moved in the direction of the deputy who took several steps of retreat into a field.
The video from the vehicle of a second arriving deputy shows Juarez moving towards Dep. Taylor. Taylor’s SUV and dash camera were pointed in a different direction but the audio clearly picks up his voice as he yells repeatedly for Juarez to show his hands.
Twice Juarez replies “No!” and seconds later utters words that sound like “It’s okay.”
Showing the video to KXAN, DA Weber emphasized a moment in the confrontation where Juarez, 65 appeared to raise the yoyo just as Taylor fired three shots in quick succession. Juarez slumped to the ground, letting out a groan.
Why release the video now?
As for the unusual decision to release the video now, well before a grand jury has a chance to see it, DA Weber tells KXAN “We want to be as transparent as possible about what occurred. We do live in a smaller community and sometimes rumors and misinformation spread rapidly. We feel the best course of action is to put the information out there (so) judgments aren’t passed.”
Weber does not believe releasing the video and audio will taint a potential grand jury, arguing any rumors would do as much damage than being fully transparent. In larger communities, such as Travis County the DA’s office will only release video and related transcripts and narrative of a critical incident involving police after a grand jury decision.
The Texas Rangers are still investigating the case which is expected to go before a grand jury in July. Until then, Deputy Taylor is on desk duty at the Sheriff’s Office. It’s an opportunity his attorney said his client is grateful for.
“He’s having a very typical reaction. What’s typical of most officers who have to go through this experience, nightmares, stress, insomnia,” said Cedar Park-based attorney Travis Williamson who is working for the Texas Municipal Police Officers’ Association. It represents many law officers in the state who become involved in a deadly force incident such as a shooting.
KXAN obtained Dep. Taylor’s personnel files which show he worked as a jailer before moving to full time deputy about two years ago. His jail supervisors described him in one review as ‘an asset.’