Report details gunfire exchange; Man fatally shot in head by police - Brownsville Herald: Local News

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Report details gunfire exchange; Man fatally shot in head by police

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Posted: Tuesday, January 14, 2020 9:15 pm

A police report submitted by the Brownsville Police Department to the Texas Attorney General’s Office stated that an armed man was shot in the head by officers in mid-December.

Mario Alberto Torres, 27, was pronounced dead at 2:51 a.m. at Valley Baptist Medical Center-Brownsville on Dec. 15, 2019. The preliminary Cameron County Forensic Pathology report documented the cause of death as “gunshot wound of the head.”

According to the police report released Monday, BPD officers responded to multiple 911 calls in reference to shots fired in the Galaxia neighborhood on Dec. 15, 2019. Callers described a man standing in the middle of the 600 block of Florence Lane, firing multiple rounds from a large-caliber weapon.

At around 2:16 a.m., Officers Rolando Trujillo Jr. and Lucio Cortinas approached Florence Lane with another officer, Jacqueline Ramirez, trailing behind them. Officer Trujillo, who had deployed his rifle, observed a male subject walking in his direction holding a midsize black object in his hand, according to the document.

The report’s summary stated that Trujillo yelled at the male subject, “Show me your hands,” while attempting to place the vehicle in park. Trujillo then observed a flash in front of the man and heard a loud bang.

Trujillo Jr. realized he was getting shot at and fired a round at the man from the seated position, the document stated.

Trujillo then quickly exited his police unit and yelled, “Let me see your hands now, drop it.” Torres ignored Trujillo’s verbal commands as gunfire was exchanged, firing multiple rounds in the direction of Trujillo, Cortinas, Ramirez, and multiple residences, officers stated.

The report claimed that rounds fired by Torres struck the driver-side rear window of Trujillo’s police unit. Trujillo returned fire and shot multiple rounds at Torres in order to protect himself, his fellow officers, and citizens in the area.

“ He reasonably believed it was immediately necessary to use deadly force to stop the imminent threat and performed his duties,” officers stated in the summary.

According to the report, Torres was struck by the gunfire and collapsed. Trujillo, Cortinas, and Ramirez then approached Torres. Cortinas removed an assault rifle from Torres’ grasp and radioed dispatch for EMS and a supervisor.

The document stated that a U.S. Border Patrol medic arrived on scene shortly thereafter and provided emergency medical assistance to Torres until Brownsville EMS arrived on scene.

Torres was transported to VBMC, where he succumbed to his wounds and died at 2:51 a.m., according to officers.

The Texas Rangers were called in to investigate the shooting, which remains under investigation, a spokesperson for the Texas Department of Public Safety said.

The incident marked the second time Trujillo was involved in a shooting death. In September 2015, a Cameron County grand jury affirmed the results of an investigation by the Texas Rangers that concluded that Trujillo’s use of force was justified.

The family of Jose Roman Rodriguez, 24, sued Trujillo, alleging that he used unnecessary and excessive force when he shot Rodriguez four times. They argued that dash cam footage showed Rodriguez’s car moving when Trujillo first fired and that forensic analysis showed the fatal shots hit Rodriguez from behind, according to reports.

In December 2018, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit dismissed an appeal brought by Trujillo, who shot and killed the unarmed man after his passenger stole three cases of beer from a 7-Eleven three years prior, according to The Brownsville Herald archives.

Trujillo denied accusations of excessive force and argued for the lawsuit’s dismissal. The case file stated that Trujillo pulled Rodriguez over around 2 a.m. on July 17, 2015. Rodriguez’s friend jumped out of the passenger seat and fled as Trujillo approached the vehicle.

In a statement made to the Texas Rangers, the officer told investigators that Rodriguez brought his hand from the center console toward his left shoulder, in Trujillo’s direction. “I was only able to focus on a blur of his tattoo from the top of his right hand and a gray object in his right hand,” he had said. He told investigators that he thought his life was going to come to an end.

Reports indicated that no weapons were found in the car — only a screwdriver — and that Trujillo failed to mention the gray object until six days later, after he met with counsel.

An order from the appeals court stated that Trujillo gave inconsistent testimony about touching the screwdriver, claiming both that he did not recall whether he had touched it and that he pulled it out of the center console and put it back.

The Combined Law Enforcement Association of Texas (CLEAT) reported that Torres’ death was the 101st officer-involved shooting in Texas in 2019.

esheridan@brownsvilleherald.com

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