SAN BENITO — For more than nine months, police officers’ shooting of 21-year-old Ricardo Treviño has rattled City Hall, with many residents demanding “justice” as they rallied around his family.
Now, a Cameron County grand jury’s decision Wednesday to clear the officers has reignited passions stemming from one of the city’s most tragic events in decades.
Based on the findings of a nine-month Texas Rangers investigation, grand jurors found officers including former Police Chief Michael Galvan, Officer David Rebolledo and two Precinct 5 deputy constables were justified in using deadly force to shoot Treviño, who was unarmed.
At the San Benito Police Department, the case has torn at its officers, some of whom support police Supervisor Art Flores, Treviño’s stepfather.
“Moral has been low for awhile,” Flores said Thursday. “Usually there’s a lot of joking around — a lot of talk. But today, everyone was pretty quiet. Officers close to me — a handful support me — they’re shocked. They’re disappointed, as I am. They were hurting for me. I told them, ‘Please, I don’t want to talk about it. Just let me get this day over with.’”
Officers continue to support Galvan, whose attorney is calling for officials to reinstate him.
“The grand jury decision supports the fact, what we’ve been saying all along, and that is that there is no evidence to charge the officers,” attorney Alex Guajardo said. “We’ve made a demand with full force that the city reinstate Michael Galvan to the original position.”
At City Hall, Lynne Pare has become one of the city’s loudest voices demanding answers, such as the names of the officers who fired at Treviño, who was repeatedly shot after a 22-mile chase ended in El Ranchito Dec. 7, 2018.
In March, officials released the names of six officers but didn’t reveal which ones fired at Treviño.
“It’s the public’s right to know,” Pare, who oversees Keep San Benito Beautiful, said, noting many cities release the names of officers involved in shootings.
“They’re out there supposedly to serve and protect the public,” she said. “It comes down to trust, it comes down to honor, it comes down to transparency. When this happens in my hometown, it hits home and puts fear in people. Who wants to pull over for the cops in San Benito?”
Like Pare, businessman Chuy Aguilera said the shooting has led many to question their trust in the police department.
“It’s brought awareness to everyone — you’re on check. You’ve got to be careful when you’re stopped,” he said. “You have to be fearful for your children. … We live in the Rio Grande Valley. We’re not used to killing. When you’re stopped, now you have to worry.”
A war veteran, Aguilera said military officials required soldiers to justify any fatalities during his stint in Afghanistan.
“If you killed someone, you’ve got to be ready to answer,” he said.
What Galvan’s attorneys say
In a press release issued Wednesday, Guajardo stated the Texas Rangers investigation found “no grounds for prosecution” and “no evidence” against Galvan and Rebolledo.
“This proves that the city of San Benito is wrong in the way this incident was and has been handled by the city after placing officers on administrative leave despite attorneys’ position that the police department’s intention to impose disciplinary action … was invalid under Texas law,” the press release states.
According to the press release, the attorneys “demand with full force and effect that the city reinstate Chief Michael Galvan back to full duty as city of San Benito police chief with all rank and privileges and seniority that he possessed prior to this incident and reinstate officer David Rebolledo back to full duty as city of San Benito police officer with all rank and privileges and seniority that he possessed prior to this incident.”
The attorneys also “highly urge the city not to recommit to inadvertently punish Chief Galvan and officer Rebolledo, who have been placed on administrative leave for more than three months and administrative desk duties before for having exercised their proper training and duty.”
“For the city to impose a harsh penalty against Chief Galvan and officer Rebolledo for having diligently served the city and protected the community from harm would characterize a gross misjudgment by the city that fundamentally places Chief Galvan and officer Rebolledo at a severe due process disadvantage.”
Across town, some residents question Galvan’s future with the department.
In March, city officials named Assistant City Manager Fred Bell interim police chief, appointing Galvan assistant chief as they launched an internal affairs investigation to determine whether officers involved in the shooting followed policy and procedure during events leading to Treviño’s shooting.
Then about three months ago, Galvan was placed on paid administrative leave.
With the completion of the Texas Rangers investigation, city officials are considering whether disciplinary action is warranted.
“The city will now have thirty days from today’s date to make a final decision about whether to pursue disciplinary process for internal policy violations, if any,” the city said in a press release issued Wednesday, following the grand jury’s decision.
Guajardo said, “We are contesting whether that is valid.”
After grand jurors handed down their decision Wednesday, District Attorney Luis 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.
Saenz said speeds ranged from 40, 60 to 104 mph as Treviño recorded the 22-minute chase along Interstate 69, FM 732 and U.S. 281.
Meanwhile, Galvan set up roadblocks to try to stop Treviño’s car, even trying to fire at his tires.
During the pursuit, Flores was calling police dispatchers, telling them police were chasing his stepson’s car.
After Treviño led about 10 law enforcement units to a cul-de-sac off Ranch Park Road, he “collided” with Galvan’s car, Saenz said.
“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 Wednesday. “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.”
Flores said his stepson’s Nissan shows only a dent.
Meanwhile, a photograph of the shooting scene shows Treviño’s red Nissan in a ditch.
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.
Saenz said officers fired 31 rounds.