BROWNSVILLE — A Cameron County grand jury yesterday cleared police officers in the fatal shooting of an unarmed San Benito man following a car chase late last year.
Grand jurors found San Benito police officers and Precinct 5 deputies were justified in using deadly force to shoot Ricardo Treviño, 21, following a 22-mile chase that ended in a cul-de-sac in El Ranchito on Dec. 7, 2018.
District Attorney Luis Saenz’s office presented the findings of a nine-month Texas Rangers criminal investigation to grand jurors who decided not to indict the officers, including former San Benito Police Chief Michael Galvan.
“An officer may use deadly force when the officer reasonably believes there is a substantial risk the suspect could cause the death or serious bodily injury to the officer or some other person if the force is not used and the arrest is consequently delayed,” Saenz said after the grand jury’s decision, reciting the law governing police officers’ use of deadly force.
Meanwhile, San Benito officials may pursue disciplinary action against two officers if deemed warranted.
Officials will request investigation findings as part of the Civil Service probe, a city press release states.
“The city will now have 30 days from today’s date to make a final decision about whether to pursue disciplinary process for internal policy violations, if any,” the press release stated.
However, findings will remain confidential as required under collective bargaining agreements.
During a press conference yesterday, Saenz said the Texas Rangers’ investigation found Treviño’s use of his car posed an imminent danger to police officers after the chase ended on a cul-de-sac off Ranch Park Road in El Ranchito.
Four officers fired 31 rounds, Saenz said.
Art Flores, Treviño’s stepfather who serves as a San Benito police supervisor, said the family plans to file a lawsuit.
“I’m completely disappointed, shocked,” Flores said. “It’s a travesty. I have no faith in the justice system — you can literally just murder an innocent person and get away with it. The judicial system gives too much leeway — too much authority to use deadly force.”
Flores said be believes the Texas Rangers’ sought to protect the police officers during their investigation.
“It’s called the code of silence,” he said. “It’s very prevalent, very predominate. You just don’t go against the cops.”
Attorney John Blaylock, who’s representing the family, said he plans to request Saenz turn over the Texas Rangers’ investigation findings to help him determine whether to pursue a lawsuit.
“Based on my investigation, this is not a justified killing of a person,” Blaylock said. “It’s an unreasonable killing. They crossed the line.”
Saenz said the pursuit began at a San Benito church, after Treviño’s cousin called the police department because Treviño had taken as much as half a bottle of Tylenol.
“This guy is not all there. He’s talking hopelessness,” Saenz said. “The young man is troubled. He had suicidal tendencies.”
However, April Flores, Treviño’s mother, describes her son as a former San Benito High School special education student “with the heart of a child.”
Saenz said Treviño drove away from the church after an officer tried to approach his car.
“It’s normal speed,” he said.
As the officer follows Treviño, he begins recording the chase
Meanwhile, Flores is calling dispatchers, telling them officers are chasing his stepson.
Saenz said speeds ranged from 40, 60 to 104 mph during the 22-minute chase along Interstate 69, FM 732 and U.S. 281.
During the chase from San Benito to El Ranchito, officers tried to stop Treviño’s car, setting up roadblocks and trying to shoot the car’s tires, he said.
Saenz said an officer even tried to use pepper spray to stop Treviño.
On 281, Galvan spoke through his public address radio.
“‘Stop, stop. We can work this out,’” Saenz said, referring to Galvan’s orders.
The chase ended in a cul-de-sac off Ranch Park Road.
“He puts his car in forward and collides with Chief Galvan’s car, I mean forceful and he’s like trying to push it back, his tires are spinning and spinning. He can’t,” Saenz said. “Then he puts it in reverse and goes all the way back and that’s where there are officers behind and that’s when the shooting breaks out.”
But Flores said his stepson’s Nissan shows only a dent.
“There’s no damage,” he said. “There’s a little dent, like a fender-bender in a parking lot.”
Treviño’s video appears to show him parking his car.
Moments later, the video shows Treviño sitting in his car amid a barrage of gunfire at about 3:30 p.m.