Texas grand jury declines to indict cop who fatally shot Mexican during pursuit
A Texas grand jury declined on Monday to charge a suburban Dallas police officer in the fatal shooting of an unarmed Mexican national in another case that raised questions about racial bias by U.S. police.
Ruben Garcia Villalpando, a married father of four, was shot twice in the chest on the side of a highway in February by Grapevine police officer Robert Clark after a brief car chase.
Along with announcing the grand jury’s decision, prosecutors also released a police dashcam video of the incident, which showed Villalpando raising his hands as he walked unsteadily toward Clark, who repeatedly asked him to stop.
Villalpando was intoxicated at the time, the medical examiner’s autopsy report said.
His death triggered rallies calling for the officer to face prosecution for a shooting that protesters said was racially motivated. Demonstrators likened Villalpando’s death to high-profile police killings of unarmed black men in Ferguson, Missouri, and in New York City.
About a dozen people demonstrated peacefully outside the Grapevine police station on Monday evening, some carrying signs and chanting “Justice Now!” and “Fire Clark, a killer!”
“We have to end police brutality,” said Hispanic community organizer Hector Flores.
The dashcam video also showed Clark shouting profanities at Villalpando. At one point, Clark could be heard saying that Villalpando was trying to reach for something, although the footage showed he was standing still with his hands in the air.
The Villalpando family is seeking a federal investigation and plan to file a wrongful death lawsuit against Clark and the Grapevine Police Department, the family’s attorney said.
The grand jurors were given complete access to all the evidence in the case, including cell phone videos and the dashcam video from Clark’s vehicle, said prosecutor Larry Moore, who led the state’s presentation.
Prosecutors made no recommendation to the grand jury, Moore said. The grand jury heard from 13 witnesses, including Clark.
Grapevine Police said in a statement that Clark, who has been with the force for less than a year, “acted professionally and within law enforcement best practices.”
Clark was placed on leave following the shooting but has returned to work in a desk job.
The Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs has condemned the shooting death of Villalpando.
Grapevine Police Chief Eddie Salame said: “This is not the first time someone’s judgment impaired by alcohol has created a situation that led to their death.”
(Reporting by Marice Richter; Editing by by Jon Herskovitz, Eric Beech and Paul Tait)