A man was killed by Weslaco police officers Monday afternoon during an altercation inside the Walmart on North Texas Boulevard.
The identity of the Latino man has not been released pending notification of next of kin, Weslaco Police Chief Joel Rivera said during a news conference held in the parking lot of a nearby retailer Monday evening.
Officials say numerous police officers arrived on the scene just two minutes after receiving the first call that a man armed with a rifle was inside the department store.
Police received a call just after 3 p.m. that a man dressed entirely in black had entered the store armed with an assault rifle. Officers arrived shortly thereafter, the chief said.
“Our officers arrived at 1508,” Rivera said, using military time to describe the moment of arrival, 3:08 p.m.
“We believe that the suspect entered the Walmart through the north side entrance, had a confrontation with a customer, ended up pointing a gun at the customer. That’s still being corroborated through video and eyewitnesses,” Rivera continued.
In the two minutes between receiving calls for help and officers arriving on the scene, that customer appeared to have left the store, Rivera said.
A total of 17 Weslaco police officers and four Hidalgo County deputy constables descended on the Walmart in those first minutes, with some officers heading toward the back of the store where the man had fled, while others worked to safely evacuate customers and employees, Rivera said.
Police found the man at the back of the store near the grocery section and ordered him to lower his weapon, which Rivera described as an assault rifle.
“They gave him orders to throw the gun. He threw the gun on the ground,” Rivera said.
But, as the situation continued, the man refused to show police his hands. Officers attempted to subdue him via “less than lethal” force, the chief said.
“He refused to show his hands. At some point he produced a handgun,” Rivera said.
“The suspect fired at officers and the officers returned fire,” he said, adding that the man suffered multiple gunshot wounds.
No officers were harmed during the incident.
Rivera added that police are still investigating what sparked the incident, and are working to identify a man the decedent was seen speaking to just prior to the arrival of police.
“It’s important that customer comes forward so that we can speak to him as part of our investigation,” Rivera said.
“Preliminary indication is that this suspect entered the Walmart and he ended up getting into some type of verbal altercation with a customer, pulled a gun, pointed a gun at that particular customer,” Rivera added a moment later.
The chief reported that his officers observed the man to be “very distraught, very irate concerning a medical issue.”
Weslaco police have turned the investigation over to the Texas Rangers, an investigatory arm of the Texas Department of Public Safety which often acts as a neutral third party to investigate officer-involved shootings.
As to claims by a male eyewitness that he had wielded his own handgun in an attempt to disarm the decedent prior to the arrival of police, Rivera said that also remains under investigation.
Staff writer Berenice Garcia contributed to this report.