Attorney: As many as five officers fired in shooting death

SAN BENITO — As many as five law enforcement officers fired at a 21-year-old man whose death has sparked an outcry among many in this small, tight-knit community.

Tuesday night, city commissioners met in closed session with City Attorney Mark Sossi to discuss a possible lawsuit stemming from Ricardo Treviño III’s death.

After the session, City Manager Manuel De La Rosa told residents the Texas Municipal League has assigned attorney Ricardo Navarro to the case.

Before the audience, Navarro said two Cameron County Precinct 5 deputy constables fired at Treviño, who died after officers repeatedly shot him after a 12-minute chase.

He said as many as three San Benito police officers fired at Treviño.

“Multiple officers discharged their weapons,” Navarro said.

“We can’t really be quite sure,” Navarro said. “We need to interview the constables and the officers.”

Navarro said it was unclear whether Police Chief Michael Galvan fired at Treviño.

“It’s hard to say,” he said.

Navarro, Harlingen’s city attorney, said the TML, which offers many Texas cities legal representation, assigned him because of “the fact that a citizen died as a result of police action.”

“This is a critical incident,” Navarro, known to handle Civil Service cases, told the crowd at City Hall. “This is a high-profile incident — very emotional.”

Margarito Garza, Treviño’s grandfather, told Navarro officers “assisinated” his grandson, who was mentally challenged and had no criminal record.

“What gave them the right to assassinate somebody,” Garza told Navarro. “They went trigger-happy when he raised his hands.”

Navarro told Garza the Texas Rangers were investigating whether officers involved in the shooting followed standard policy and procedures.

“These are law enforcement officers who have training — who can use (lethal) action,” Navarro said. “Policy compliance and policy review are components of this.”

Navarro said a Civil Service investigation will follow after the Rangers complete their probe in about April or May.

April Treviño, Treviño’s mother, asked Navarro why the city had not released the names of the officers involved in the shooting and why it had not conducted an internal affairs investigation.

In response, Navarro said the city was waiting for the Texas Rangers to complete their investigation before releasing the information and opening an internal investigation.

“It’s to protect the integrity of the Ranger investigation,” Navarro said. “We have to balance the interest of the officers involved. This is very well documented. There’s a lot of camera footage. Nothing is going to get lost.”

The family also asked whether Galvan continued to serve as police chief.

“Chief Galvan is still the chief,” Navarro said. “The operation of the department is continuing. The department is operational.”

Texas Rangers probe

The Texas Rangers’ preliminary investigation found Treviño drove his car head-on into a police car.

Apparently, San Benito police officers believed Treviño was using his car as a weapon when they repeatedly shot him after a chase, John Blaylock, an attorney representing his family, has said.

But Blaylock said Treviño’s car was parked in a ditch, posing no threat to police.

Blaylock and family members question the Rangers’ finding because a photograph of the shooting scene shows Treviño’s red Nissan apparently stuck head-on in a ditch while a police car is parked in front of it.

What we know

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

After he left the church, Treviño saw police following him, leading him to record the chase through Facebook.

As police chased Treviño’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.

The chase ended on Ranch Park Road in El Ranchito, where the 18-minute video apparently shows Treviño parking his car.

Moments later, the video shows Treviño being struck by several bullets.

A few hours after the incident, the city released information stating officers involved in the shooting “have been placed on administrative desk duty as per policies and procedures where fatalities are involved.”