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Fatal Shooting of San Antonio Man Prompts Call for Body Cameras

A fatal shooting in San Antonio is shining new light on the debate over whether law-enforcement officers should use body cameras. Credit: Avid Creative, Inc.
A fatal shooting in San Antonio is shining new light on the debate over whether law-enforcement officers should use body cameras. Credit: Avid Creative, Inc.
September 2, 2015

SAN ANTONIO - A video released Monday by an ABC affiliate in San Antonio shows Bexar County Sheriff's Deputies Greg Vasquez and Robert Sanchez fatally shooting Gilbert Flores. In the video, Flores stands still - and at a distance from the officers with his hands raised - the moment the deputies open fire.

Matt Simpson, senior policy strategist with the ACLU of Texas, said the video raises serious concerns.

"If there hadn't been a bystander with a video camera at this incident, we wouldn't have known what we know now," he said. "When these videos come out, it's a reminder that steps need to be taken to ensure that there's good policies in place that really clarify when an officer can and cannot use force, particularly deadly force."

The ACLU of Texas is calling on the Sheriff's Department and the Bexar County District Attorney's Office to conduct what it terms a "transparent investigation" into the Aug. 28 shooting and hold any wrongdoers accountable. Both officers involved in the shooting have been placed on paid administrative leave.

Although the video doesn't show every aspect of the interaction, Simpson said it points to a troubling trend of officers failing to use force proportional to the circumstances. He said he believes that if members of law enforcement used body cameras, there would be more objective evidence of police encounters.

"Body cameras for law enforcement are good for both the public and for officers," he said. "For the public, we have clarity on incidents like uses of force, so we know exactly what happened. For officers, there's been research done that body cameras actually encourage the public to be more respectful."

Simpson noted that Texas went part of the way on body cameras when the Legislature passed Senate Bill 158, which went into effect on Tuesday. The measure does not require the use of cameras, but establishes guidelines and provides grants to agencies for training and equipment.

The KSAT Channel 12 video link is online at ksat.com. Details of SB 158 are at legiscan.com.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - TX