AP NEWS

Mother wants city to release names of officers who shot son

March 16, 2019

SAN BENITO — More than three months after her son’s death, April Flores is still calling on city officials to release the names of three police officers involved in his shooting.

Across the country, many cities release the names of officers involved in shootings, Flores said yesterday.

Earlier this month, the city of Brownsville released the names of two officers involved in a March 1 shooting that injured a 24-year-old woman who pointed at pistol at them.

“What is the difference between Brownsville and San Benito?” asked Flores, the mother of Ricardo Treviño III, 21, who was unarmed when officers repeatedly shot him Dec. 7.

At City Hall, some residents have also called on city commissioners to release the officers’ names.

“The city is refusing to be transparent in releasing the names,” Flores said. “They should formally release it to the public.”

But the city will continue withholding the names until the Texas Rangers complete their investigation into the shooting involving three San Benito officers and two Precinct 5 Cameron County deputy constables, Ricardo Navarro, an attorney representing the city, said.

Navarro, who was assigned by the Texas Municipal League to represent the city, said the city wants to protect the officers.

“We don’t have an obligation to give those names and we’re not going to give those names,” he said.

Following the shooting, the city placed the officers on administrative desk duty, based on policy and procedure.

The city determines whether officers involved in fatal shootings are “fit” to return to work, Navarro said in an earlier interview.

On Jan. 21, Police Chief Michael Galvan and an officer were apparently back on the job.

Alex Guajardo, Galvan’s attorney, has said the city has ordered the chief not to comment on the case.

Another officer is apparently expected to return to work next month.

City to protect officers

Navarro said the city wants to protect the officers.

“We don’t want the officers bothered, harassed or followed,” Navarro said Wednesday. “We are not releasing the names while the investigation is going on.”

But Flores said the city’s refusal to release the names raises suspicion.

“It’s the principle of the matter,” she said. “It’s not so much like they’re protecting them. It makes them look like they’re hiding something.”

In this small, tight-knit community, many residents already know the names of the three officers.

Meanwhile, Flores is married to police Supervisor Art Flores, a department veteran.

“My husband works with the officers,” she said. “He knows who they are.”

Navarro noted close ties make aspects of the case appear “awkward.”

“ I understand the family’s frustration,” Navarro said. “It’s a tough case. Everybody knows each other.”

Investigation

Navarro said the Texas Rangers have indicated they could complete the investigation by next month.

“They’re talking maybe April,” he said.

Following the Texas Rangers investigation, the city’s Civil Service commission and the police department’s internal affairs unit are expected to conduct investigations.

Meanwhile, John Blaylock, an attorney representing Treviño’s family, is also investigating the case

Blaylock described this case as “clearly different” than many cases involving police shootings.

“In the others, the officers find someone with a weapon,” Blaylock said yesterday. “In this case, they weren’t called because someone was a danger to others.”

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.

“He was running,” Blaylock said. “They were dispatched to a kid in trouble and they took it to another level.”

The pursuit

About a half hour before the shooting, Blaylock noted, Treviño used his cell phone to record the events leading up to the shooting.

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 El Ranchito.

As police pursued Treviño’s car, Art Flores was calling dispatchers to tell them police were chasing his stepson.

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

The shooting

The Texas Rangers’ preliminary investigation found Treviño used his car as a weapon.

But Blaylock said he doesn’t believe that makes sense.

A photograph of the scene shows Treviño’s red Nissan parked head-on in a ditch, in front of a police car.

Treviño’s recording shows him sitting in his car amid a barrage of gunfire.

“We know the car’s in park when he’s shot,” Blaylock said.

Call for justice

Flores believes police killed her son as if he had committed a violent crime.

“I want justice,” she said. “I want my son’s name cleared.”

Flores described her son as a mechanics student at Texas State Technical College who graduated in 2014 from San Benito High School, where he was a special education student “with the heart of a child.”

“He’s not a criminal,” she said. “I don’t want him to be remembered as one.”

fdelvalle@valleystar.com