Custodial death report released in fatal shooting

A report released in the shooting death of 21-year-old Samuel Mata by a San Benito police officer suggested that the young man was intoxicated at the time of the incident.

The custodial death report published by the Texas Attorney General’s Office contradicts statements made by Mata’s family in a press conference organized by attorney Kenny Perez last month.

“ Pre-Custodial Use of Force” is listed as the type of custody Mata was in at the time of his death — meaning that he had not been arrested. No charges were filed at the time of his death.

The document listed the reason the officer made contact with Mata and his mother, Nora Lugo, as, “Neighbors called stating they heard a male and female arguing as well as items being broken.”

The report alleged that Mata “displayed a firearm without discharge” and “attempted to injure law enforcement personnel; attempted to injure civilian(s) or other inmate(s)” and that he appeared intoxicated on alcohol or drugs.

“ Yes” is marked next to categories asking whether Mata attempted to physically assault the officer as well as to escape or flee custody.

According to San Benito PD, Officer Oscar Lara shot Samuel Mata in his front yard near the intersection of South Bonham and East Powers around 11 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 9.

The department stated that Mata and his mother were “arguing about the use of a vehicle” and that his mother “was attempting to prevent Mr. Mata from driving off in her car when a physical altercation ensued.”

“ Officer Lara attempted to de-escalate the situation when Mr. Mata brandished a revolver and pointed it at his mother and subsequently at Officer Lara. Officer Lara aimed at Mr. Mata and discharged his firearm,” the release stated.

Mata’s mother told reporters that a San Benito Police officer approached the two outside her son’s apartment as they stood outside her vehicle, determining who would drive.

According to Lugo, she had seen the police car patrolling the area when she arrived to pick up her son at his apartment.

Lugo stated she told the officer Mata was her son and that they did not need assistance. A two-year-old and Mata’s dog were both inside the vehicle. She leaned inside, then heard “shot after shot”.

The family expressed incredulity as to why the officer shot Mata instead of macing him, which Lara had threatened to do, according to both Lugo and the reports filed in Mata’s death.

According to the custodial death report, a call for service was placed to San Benito PD at approximately 11:04 p.m. in reference to a domestic disturbance in progress in the alley behind 390 Bonham Street.

“ The caller informed the dispatcher that he could hear glass breaking and requested for officers to hurry to the scene. An officer was dispatched to the location and upon arrival he observed a male hiding behind a vehicle parked in front of 531 E Powers St,” the report stated.

According to the report, Mata got into the driver seat of the vehicle as the officer approached and attempted to leave the area. A female, later identified as Mata’s mother was arguing with him and physically trying to get him to exit the vehicle, the document stated.

It alleged that “Mata’s mother did not want Samuel to drive and informed the officer that she believed he was under the influence of narcotics to which Samuel replied that he was. The officer at the scene ordered Mata to calm down several times and told him that he would get pepper sprayed if he didn’t comply.”

“ Samuel exited the vehicle and began pushing his mother telling her to get out of the way. As Samuel got out of the vehicle he displayed a firearm and pointed it in the direction of his mother. The officer then fired his handgun at Samuel striking him in the upper torso. The officer and backup officers who arrived began performing CPR on Samuel, but he was later pronounced dead at the scene,” stated the report.

 

esheridan@brownsvilleherald.com