15-Year-Old With Pellet Gun Shot to Death at School by Texas Police Officers (Courthouse News)
Thursday June 20th, 2013
BROWNSVILLE, Texas (CN) - Brownsville police "came in guns blazing" and shot a middle-school student to death at school; he was carrying a pellet gun, his parents claim in court.
Parents of the late Jaimie Gonzalez sued the City of Brownsville and five of its police officers in Federal Court.
"On or about January 4, 2012, the assistant principle of Cummings Middle School notified the police that Jamie had a gun at the school," the complaint states. "Defendants arrived at the school and immediately started shooting at the door behind which Jaimie was standing. Jaimie had not fired the gun, nor had he tried to shoot anyone. The defendants did not try to calm the situation down and talk to Jaimie, who was only fifteen (15) years old; they came in guns blazing and simply shot Jaimie, killing him.
"After killing Jaimie, it was learned that the gun he had was only a pellet gun. Furthermore, the one police report plaintiff has been able to obtain mentions nothing about Jaimie pointing the gun at another student or at the police, only that the defendants were told by Ms. Brito, the assistant principal of the school, that Jaimie had a gun and was pointing it at the front door and that she had put the school on lockdown. At that point the report gets very vague, simply saying that defendant Aguilar had to resort to the use of deadly force. It appears that, in actuality, no one, not even Jaimie, was in danger at the time of his death."
Gonzalez's stepmother Norvela Gonzalez says she "raised Jaimie from the time he was a year old and loved him as though he was her own flesh and blood."
That morning she was working at a warehouse 15 minutes away from the school when the warehouse secretary called her and told her to go to the office.
"There was a police detective waiting in the office, who asked that she go with him. The only thing he told her was there was a problem at the school and there was a fight. Mrs. Gonzalez couldn't believe it because her son was a good kid and she told the secretary of the warehouse that couldn't be true. The detective probed Mrs. Gonzalez to find out what kind of child Jaimie was. Mrs. Gonzalez told him that Jaimie was a band captain, and she told the detective about a fight at the school a while back and how the principal asked why Jaimie did not stop the fight that broke out between two girls. Jaimie told the principal that he did not want to get involved because he would not be allowed in band," the complaint states.
"Mrs. Gonzalez assumed the detective was taking her to Jaimie's school, but he did not. The detective continued past the school onto the highway. Mrs. Gonzalez remembers questioning why they were not going to the school and the detective stated that he was taking her to Jaimie. The detective took her to the hospital and she remembers someone coming out and asking her if she was Jaimie's mother. They apologized to her and the detective led her into a room. Mrs. Gonzalez remembers a man in black and a doctor and a few nurses who told her they wanted to talk to her. At that point Mrs. Gonzalez knew something was terribly wrong. Mrs. Gonzalez asked what happened and where her son was. Mrs. Gonzalez's heart sank and she sat down on the couch. The doctor told Mrs. Gonzalez that Jaimie had passed and they couldn't do anything for him. Mrs. Gonzalez asked what happened and was told that there was a shooting and that Jaimie had been killed.
"Ms. Gonzalez asked to see her son. The detective told her she couldn't and explained that the child is fourteen (14) and that he was not in a condition to be seen. Mrs. Gonzalez truly hoped it was not her son because Jaimie was fifteen (15). The doctor told Mrs. Gonzalez she could see her son and he proceeded to a hallway and into a room with a dead body. Mrs. Gonzalez confirmed that the body was Jaimie. No other family member had been contacted. Mrs. Gonzalez was told there was only one shot with entry from his arm and exit at his head, but the doctor confirmed that Jaimie was shot three (3) times and lost a lot of blood. One of the defendants told Mrs. Gonzalez to take Jaimie to Mexico to bury him there like all the rest of the Mexicans."
Gonzalez says the police then tried to hurry her out of the room, saying she needed to go with them and sign a statement, but she refused and asked them to call her husband.
"Mrs. Gonzalez remembers the defendants asking that Jaimie be taken away and saying that his father, Mr. Gonzalez, could not see Jaimie," the complaint states. "Later on, one of the defendants told Mrs. Gonzalez that supposedly there was a shooting because her son was carrying a gun. The defendants also told Mrs. Gonzalez that Jaimie was harassing other children at the school. Jaimie did not own a gun nor did he have access to a gun. The school never contacted either Mr. or Mrs. Gonzalez, during the incident or after the incident, although they had been very diligent and had frequent contact with her in the past regarding school events."
The Gonzalezes claim that when police shot their son he was "alone in the entry area and never posed an immediate threat to the safety of the individual defendants or anyone else."
But a death report released by the Texas attorney general's office six weeks after the shooting contradicts their story, according to reports in The Brownsville Herald and the Huffington Post.
Texas law requires police to file a report with the attorney general's office within 30 days after a person dies in police custody.
The report by Sgt. Albert De La Rosa states that when police first saw Jaimie Gonzalez in the school's hallway, behind its locked door, he had what looked like a Glock handgun in his waistband.
An officer shot out the door's glass and Gonzalez retreated down the hallway. Officers approached and saw Gonzalez standing about 15 feet away from a student backed up into a corner. Gonzalez did not respond to officers' demands that he drop the gun and at some point he aimed it at his temple, and at officers.
De La Rosa wrote that he saw Gonzalez turn toward the student and gave the order to "take him out," and officers Raul Cazares and Everardo Longoria each fired one shot.
No police officers have been charged, The Herald reported.
Video from the incident has not been released to the public because of a Texas attorney general's opinion that access to information involving minors is restricted, according the Herald.
The Gonzalezes acknowledge in their lawsuit that there are discrepancies about what happened, but say the officers do not qualify for "good faith immunity" for shooting their son.
"In the instant case, plaintiffs allege that the individual defendants are not entitled to claim 'qualified good faith immunity.' Importantly, the individual defendants never had a good faith belief in their conduct because they acted in a manner demonstrating that they were plainly incompetent and knowingly violated Jaimie's civil rights," the complaint states.
The Gonzalezes seek funeral expenses and punitive damages for civil rights violations and assault.
They are represented by Christopher Gale with Gale, Wilson & Sanchez of San Antonio.
The defendant Brownsville policemen include R. Aguilar, Everardo Longoria, Raul Cazares, Officer Munoz and Officer Baker. The complaint does not have first names for all defendants.