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Rangers to decide if killing of 21-year-old was justified

January 30, 2019 GMT

SAN BENITO — A Texas Ranger investigation is expected to determine if the officer or officers who killed an unarmed 21-year-old man had justification to use deadly force.

Meanwhile, an attorney representing Ricardo Treviño’s family believes officers violated policy when they chased and repeatedly shot him Dec. 7 near the Rio Grande.

John Blaylock, an attorney representing the Treviño’s family, believes police violated policies on the use of deadly force and vehicle pursuits when they killed him in a barrage of gunfire after a chase from San Benito to El Ranchito.

At about 3 p.m. Dec. 7, Treviño drove away from a San Benito church after his cousin called for an ambulance because he had taken too many Tylenol pills.

When Treviño saw police following him, he began recording the 12-minute chase down Interstate 69 and onto U.S. 281, where he led about eight law enforcement units to a county road in El Ranchito.

Moments after it appeared Treviño parked his car, officers repeatedly shot him as he sat in the driver’s seat.

“From my investigation, I believe that several of these standardized police policies and city policies were violated during the chase and the ultimate killing of Ricardo Treviño,” Blaylock said yesterday.

Blaylock said Treviño, who was unarmed, posed no threat to officers.

The Texas Rangers are investigating whether officers were justified in using deadly force when they killed Treviño, Ricardo Navarro, an attorney assigned by the Texas Municipal League to represent the city, said yesterday.

“I think he’d look at whether the guys complied with policy … and whether the use of deadly force was justified,” Navarro said. “He’s doing a criminal investigation on the use of force. There could be policy violations that have nothing to do with the shooting.”

Navarro said the city worked with a consultant about five years ago to update policies on the use of deadly force and vehicle pursuits.

“That’s a pretty updated set of policies,” Navarro said. “They appear to be well-researched and well-sourced. They’re procedures that incorporate civil rights case law translated into police talk for officers as to how you implement things on the ground. I think they’re state-of-the-art.”

Who fired the shots?

Navarro said the Texas Rangers, who have gathered police weapons used in the shooting, will try to determine the identity of the officer or officers who fired the shot or shots that killed Treviño.

Officers firing weapons included as many as three San Benito police officers and two Cameron County Precinct 5 deputy constables, Navarro said.

“Was the use of force from that particular gun justified?” Navarro said, referring to the officer or officers who fired the shot or shots that killed Treviño. “If there were multiple shots, there will be some effort by the medical examiner to determine which bullet wound was the cause of death. It could be more than one.”

Navarro said an autopsy will also determine “how many times Mr. Treviño was, in fact, hit.”

The Texas Rangers are also investigating whether officers fired at Treviño’s car during the 12-minute pursuit from San Benito to El Ranchito, where officers repeatedly shot him moments after he parked off Ranch Park Road at about 3:30 p.m.

According to video accounts, at least eight law enforcement units pursued Treviño’s red Nissan along Interstate 69 and U.S. 281.

April Treviño has said her son, a former special education student at San Benito High School who was studying to be a mechanic, had never been in trouble with police before.

How it happened

At about 3 p.m. Dec. 7, Treviño was helping his cousins prepare food plates at Templo Bethesda Iglesia Pentecostes, at 480 E. Expressway 83 in San Benito, before they called for an ambulance because he had taken too many Tylenol pills, which he took to relieve back pain.

However, Treviño drove off because he did not want treatment, his mother has said.

After he left the church, Treviño saw police following him, and he began recording the chase through Facebook.

“Ricardo committed no crime and didn’t deserve to have eight police units chase him, shoot at him and execute him,” Blaylock said. “He was not a bank robber, he was not a murderer. He was just a kid in need of help.”

As police pursued her son’s car, Art Flores, his stepfather who works as a supervisor with the San Benito Police Department, was calling dispatchers to tell them police were chasing his stepson.

April Treviño has said her son’s video recording includes audio indicating police fired as officers pursued him along U.S. 281.

Ricardo Treviño led law enforcement units to the side of a cul-de-sac on Ranch Park Road in El Ranchito, where his 18-minute video appears to show him parking his car.

Moments later, the video shows him being struck by several bullets as he sat in his car.

San Benito police policy on deadly force

• An officer may use deadly force to protect him/herself or others from what he/she reasonably believes would be an imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury.

• An officer may use deadly force to stop a fleeing subject when the officer has probable cause to believe that the person has committed, or intends to commit, a felony involving the infliction of serious bodily injury or death and the officer reasonably believes that there is an imminent risk of serious bodily injury or death to any other person if the subject is not immediately apprehended.

• (A)n imminent danger may exist if an officer reasonably believes any of the following:

The person has a weapon or is attempting to access one and it is reasonable to believe the person intends to use it against the officer or another.

The person is capable or causing serious bodily injury or death without a weapon and it is reasonable to believe the person intends to do so.

• Shots fired at or from a moving vehicle are rarely effective. Officers should move out of the path of an approaching vehicle instead of discharging their firearm at the vehicle or any of its occupants. An officer should only discharge a firearm at a moving vehicle or its occupants when the officer reasonably believes there are no other reasonable means available to avert the threat of the vehicle or if deadly force other than the vehicle is directed at the officer or others

San Benito police policy on vehicle pursuit

• Vehicle pursuits expose innocent citizens, law enforcement officers and fleeing violators to the risk of serious injury or death

• Vehicular pursuits require officers to exhibit a high degree of common sense and sound judgment

• Officers must not forget that the immediate apprehension of a suspect is generally not more important than the safety of the public and pursuing officers

• Officers’ conduct during the course of a pursuit must be objectively reasonable; that is, what a reasonable officer would be under the circumstances. An unreasonable individual’s desire to apprehend a fleeing suspect at all costs has no place in professional law enforcement

• Seriousness of the known or reasonably suspected crime and its relationship to community safety

• Apparent nature of the fleeing suspect (e.g., whether the suspect represents a serious threat to the public safety)

• The identity of the suspect has been verified and there is comparatively minimal risk in allowing the suspect to be apprehended at a later time

• Pursuit units should be limited to three vehicles (two units and a supervisor); however, the number of units involved will vary with the circumstances

• Vehicles not equipped with red light and siren are generally prohibited from initiating or joining any pursuit

• The use of firearms to disable a pursued vehicle is not generally an effective tactic and involves all the dangers associated with discharging firearms. Officers should not utilize firearms during an ongoing pursuit unless the conditions and circumstances dictate that such use reasonably appears necessary to protect life. Nothing in this section shall be construed to prohibit any officer from using from using a firearm to stop a suspect from using a vehicle as a deadly weapon