Cell phone video shows man lifting hands, then being shot by Texas deputies
BEXAR COUNTY, Tex. — Gilbert Flores is shirtless, running in front of a home in San Antonio as the two sheriff’s deputies approach him.
A minute later, he’s putting his hands up.
Then the shots ring out, and he falls to the ground.
Cell phone video obtained by CNN affiliate KSAT appears to show sheriff’s deputies in Bexar County, Texas, shooting and killing the 41-year-old Friday.
“He put his hands in the air and then he had his hands up for a few seconds and the cops shot him twice,” Michael Thomas, the man who filmed the video, told CNN.
Authorities in Bexar County addressed the existence of the video Friday, the day Flores was killed. They confirmed it was Flores on Monday.
The incident comes at a time when law enforcement officers are under scrutiny for how and when they resort to lethal force. The killings of several individuals by police over the past year have heightened tensions between police and the communities they serve, especially among minorities.
The scrutiny of officer-involved shootings is the reason Thomas recorded the scene in Bexar County.
“I thought with everything going on in the world, with police shootings and everything, I thought I would record what was happening,” he told CNN.
The Bexar County Sheriff’s Office said Flores was armed with a knife and resisting arrest when deputies showed up. Neither deputy was wearing a body camera.
“We are aware that there is recorded video which appears to show the final moments of this deputy-involved shooting,” Bexar County Sheriff Susan Pamerleau said Friday. “It’s among many pieces of evidence that we are collecting to determine what happened.”
The video is shot from far away, so it’s not clear whether Flores is brandishing a weapon. The man steps behind a sheriff’s car and cannot be seen at certain times. The only audio that was captured was that of the gunshots.
Though it’s clear Flores has one hand up, the other is briefly obscured by a utility pole.
Still, the footage appears to show that Flores is not a direct threat to the responding officers.
“As the guy and police were going back and forth, the man acted like he was going to run back inside his house and then ran around the cars by the cop car and the cops started pursuing closer to him,” Thomas told CNN.
The deputies had their weapons trained on Flores throughout the encounter, he added.
He opened his arms and stepped toward the two deputies before taking a few steps back, Thomas said.
Police say he was resisting arrest
Pamerleau said the incident occurred after authorities responded to a domestic disturbance call coming from Flores’ home Friday morning. When they arrived, they found a woman and baby, both of whom appeared to be injured.
The woman had suffered a cut on her head, and the baby also appeared hurt, the sheriff’s office said.
Authorities say Flores resisted arrest, and nonlethal force — stun guns and shields — were used to try to subdue him, but those didn’t work, Pamerleau said.
“Certainly what’s in the video is a cause for concern,” Pamerleau said. “But it’s important to let the investigation go through its course so we can ensure a thorough and complete review of all that occurred.”
She said both deputies fired shots after a “lengthy confrontation.”
The sheriff’s office identified the deputies as Greg Vasquez and Robert Sanchez. CNN attempted to contact them late Monday.
Vasquez and Sanchez have been with the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office for more than 10 years, according to Pamerleau. They have been placed on administrative leave.
The Bexar County District Attorney’s Office has joined the investigation, according to KSAT.
Nicholas “Nico” LaHood, the Bexar County district attorney, told KSAT there’s a second video of the incident that has a closer and clearer view of what happened.
“This is a very unique situation where we actually have the shooting on video,” LaHood said. “That gives us a whole different perspective that we’ve never had to deal with before.”
James Keith, media relations officer for the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office, confirmed to CNN that his office has a second video of the shooting by someone else, but he would not go into detail about what it shows.
Flores had previous run-ins with the law. He was cited for possession of marijuana in 1995, criminal trespassing and aggravated assault in 1999, and aggravated robbery in 2003.
‘Threats to our deputies’ lives’
The station posted what it said was the entire video on its website Monday. “Other than editing for language, the video is the entirety of what we received from Michael Thomas,” it said.
The station told the sheriff’s office about the video and sent it there, but the station did not give any warning that it would post the entire raw video Monday, Keith said.
Now, Keith says, the sheriff’s office is worried about the safety of its deputies in light of the video’s public release.
On Monday, the sheriff’s office tweeted a statement that said “broadcasting a man’s death for $100 sparked threats to our deputies’ lives. Let KSAT know what you think.”
CNN reached out to KSAT about the sheriff’s office’s claims late Monday but did not immediately receive a response. It’s not uncommon for television stations to pay for user video to license it.
When asked about the tweet, Keith cited the case of Darren Goforth, a deputy who was shot from behind and killed while filling up his car at a gas station.
“After what happened in Harris County, we are not going to take any chances,” Keith said. “Now our deputies are coming to work in civilian clothes because of their concern for safety.”
Hours later, the sheriff’s office sent out a message with the following statement: “In regards to the deputy involved shooting, we’re asking for calm and patience. We are diligently working to complete the investigation so we can move to the next step. We want to get this right for the Flores family, our deputies and our community.”
San Antonio, the second-largest city in Texas, is in Bexar County.