Weslaco police have identified the man they shot and killed during an altercation at the Weslaco Walmart on Monday.
In a tweet posted Tuesday morning, police identified the man as 27-year-old Marco Antonio Sigala Jr.
Sigala died Monday after exchanging gunfire with police inside the Walmart just after 3 p.m. Sigala’s identity was withheld pending notification of his next of kin.
No one else was injured in the incident.
Speaking during a news conference after the shooting, Weslaco Police Chief Joel Rivera said more than 20 police officers and Hidalgo County deputy constables responded to the store within two minutes of receiving a call that a man dressed entirely in black and armed with an assault rifle had entered the store.
“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 said.
Officers ordered Sigala to lower the weapon, which he did, Rivera said. They later attempted to subdue him via a beanbag round, Rivera said during a phone interview Monday night.
The less-than-lethal round proved ineffective, he said.
As the situation continued, Sigala allegedly refused to show officers his hands before producing a handgun and opening fire on officers. Police returned fire, killing the man.
“He was struck multiple times,” Rivera said.
While some officers were confronting Sigala, others were working to safely evacuate the store. Rivera commended those officers, as well as the Walmart staff.
“Kudos to my officers for the appropriate response, but also to the Walmart staff. They knew their role and the management and the associates there did an excellent job making sure that the customers were safe and moved,” Rivera said.
FAMILY IN SHOCK
For Sigala’s family, what unfolded Monday afternoon has left them confounded and wondering what went wrong. The altercation that ended in fatal gunfire seems out of character with the idealistic young man they knew who had dreams of becoming a police officer himself.
“He came over to the house two days ago and he was telling me how he was so excited because he finally got to apply at the McAllen PD to become a police officer,” said Sigala’s younger sister, Anna Sigala on Tuesday.
Anna Sigala, 25, described her older brother as an inquisitive person who loved animals, adored his family and had dreams he had been working toward realizing.
She described her brother as someone who would help her with her two autistic children. Currently pregnant with her third child, Anna Sigala said her brother would visit regularly to help her with household chores since he knew the pregnancy exacerbated a persistent back problem.
He also enjoyed going to the beach with his siblings, nieces and nephews where the entire family would gather for surfside barbecues.
And after a couple of brief setbacks caused by the pandemic, things had been going well in Marco “Marky” Sigala’s life, Anna Sigala said.
Marky had been laid off from his job at a Harlingen family entertainment establishment once COVID-19 forced the shuttering of non-essential businesses. Being out of work forced him to move in with his brother in Weslaco.
As the economy slowly began to re-open, Marco Sigala sought work and landed a position as a security guard in McAllen, Anna Sigala said. For him, it was the first step in realizing his dream of becoming a police officer. It was something he and their entire family were excited about.
“That was his dream. He was wanting to be a police officer forever,” Anna Sigala said, adding that her brother had plans to complete the final semester of college he needed to earn an associate degree.
He also hoped to attend the police academy and pass the police officer entrance exam.
Marco Sigala had also recently reunited with his longtime girlfriend.
With everything seeming to be going well in her brother’s life, Anna Sigala wonders what happened Monday that led her brother into an armed confrontation with police.
“For all of this to happen the way it did, it doesn’t make any sense to me,” she said.
“I guess something happened. We don’t know what it was. We’re still trying to figure it out,” she said.
Her brother was a born conversationalist who loved asking people for their opinions, and sharing his own in turn. But as for sharing his emotions, Anna Sigala said Marky never once told his family that anything was wrong. Never indicated he may have been struggling emotionally.
She said when she saw images of the gunman on television, she thought they resembled her brother, but dismissed the thought because, “I was talking to him the other day and he was fine,” Anna Sigala said.
The only thing she could think of is perhaps her brother had learned that their father — who has long suffered serious illnesses — is gravely ill with leukemia in a Houston hospital.
Anna said she, herself, had only learned of the severity of her father’s illness Monday, the same day her brother was killed.
“I have a feeling that my brother found out. And he probably thought that he’s never going to actually, like, hold onto a relationship with my father because my father’s been sick for so many years,” Anna Sigala said.
Marco Sigala entered the Walmart wearing his security guard uniform. The two weapons he bore — an assault rifle and a handgun — were both registered to him, his sister said.
Police said Marco Sigala engaged in a verbal altercation with a customer before heading toward the rear of the store where officers later found him.
In the two minutes that elapsed between calls to police and their arrival on the scene, that customer departed the store. Chief Rivera said authorities have since located that customer, though he declined to offer additional comment, saying that the investigation has been turned over to the Texas Rangers.
“The fog of a critical incident is much like the fog of war. We’ve managed to identify him,” Rivera said of the customer.
Messages left with the Texas Department of Public Safety — of which the Rangers are a part — went unreturned as of press time Tuesday.
Meanwhile, as some officers and Walmart employees worked to evacuate the store, others confronted Marco Sigala at the back of the grocery section.
Rivera said Marco Sigala ultimately fired at officers with his handgun, which prompted the return fire that killed him.
THE POLICE RESPONSE
The police chief commended his officers for their quick response and that no other lives were lost. But it was through the cooperation of Walmart employees that law enforcement were able to evacuate the store safely and quickly, Rivera said.
Nearly a year ago to the day, a gunman entered an El Paso Walmart and killed 23 people. Twenty-three more suffered injuries in the massacre.
It was that Aug. 3, 2019 incident which prompted local authorities to re-evaluate security at similar retailers here.
“Shortly after the El Paso shooting … our crime prevention staff went and met with their (Walmart) management team and met with their staff,” Rivera said.
“We talked about roles, responsibilities. We talked about what the law enforcement response was gonna be, what our expectations of the management team was gonna be. I think it came into play here to some degree,” he said.
But Anna Sigala wonders how well prepared officers are for dealing with people in crisis. She wonders if the altercation needed to end in her brother’s death.
She alluded to an interview on live television Monday with an eyewitness who said her brother never tried to shoot bystanders.
“I’m pretty sure his initial goal was to hurt himself. I think that’s why he was telling people to leave because he didn’t want people to be in the middle of a crossfire,” Anna Sigala said.
“That’s why all of this is so confusing to me. Because I’m like, if he was asking the police officer for help, why didn’t they render aid to him when he needed it the most?” Anna Sigala said, referring to a comment by the police chief that Marco Sigala had been heard talking about a medical condition.
“Why did they shoot him down?” she said.
Anna Sigala said the outcome could have been different if officers had had more training in responding to mental health issues.
“They can’t just gun someone down because the person is depressed and asking for help,” she said, adding that she’s heard of other incidents where officers have successfully de-escalated a situation without resorting to lethal force.
Chief Rivera said Tuesday that officers tried to first subdue Marco Sigala with less-than-lethal force when they fired a beanbag round at him. It was only after Marco Sigala opened fire that officers returned lethal fire.
He added that every officer in his department must undergo both crisis intervention training and de-escalation training.
“It’s a legislatively mandated training,” Rivera said.
“That crisis intervention training is training on specifically on how to deal with individuals going through crisis,” he said.
One thing that won’t be available as the investigation moves forward, however, is body camera footage. Weslaco police officers are not equipped with such devices, Rivera said.
As Anna Sigala begins the process of planning her brother’s funeral, she’s left asking “why?” Why did her brother walk into the Walmart armed? Why did he die?
“He was a really good person. He was smart. He was educated. He had dreams. He had a lot of plans for what the future was to hold. And it’s sad because those were cut short,” she said.