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Video: Texas Deputies Fatally Shoot Unarmed Man with Hands Up

Gilbert Flores (police photo)

Gilbert Flores (police photo)

Video footage shot by a bystander appears to show sheriff’s deputies in Texas repeatedly shooting an unarmed and apparently surrendering man with his hands raised in the air.

Gilbert Flores, 41, was fatally shot on Friday by Bexar County Sheriff’s Deputies responding to a domestic disturbance call outside a home in the 24400 block of Walnut Pass in San Antonio, KSAT reports.

Michael Thomas, a student who was driving nearby, captured the incident on his smartphone camera. The video, which was published by KSAT, shows Flores running shirtless in front of a home as the two deputies, identified as Greg Vasquez and Robert Sanchez, approach him while investigating the domestic disturbance call.

“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, who said the scrutiny of officer-involved shootings prompted him to record the incident, told CNN. “He put his hands in the air and then he had his hands up for a few seconds and the cops shot him twice.”

In the video, Flores can be seen raising at least one of his hands immediately before the deputies shoot him. A telephone pole blocks the view of the victim’s second hand. Flores was rushed to a local hospital, where he later died.

[WARNING: Video contains images some viewers may find disturbing]

The Bexar County Sheriff’s Office claims Flores was armed with a knife and was resisting arrest when he was shot, and that he had harmed a woman and an 18-month-old child in the home. The woman was found inside with a cut on her head. Sheriff Susan Pamerleau claimed deputies had attempted to arrest Flores but he resisted, and that they only shot the suspect after unsuccessfully using less-lethal weapons including a shield and a Taser stun gun.

Pamerleau said the video is “among many pieces of evidence that we are collecting to determine what happened.” Vasquez and Sanchez have been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of investigations by the sheriff’s department and the district attorney’s office. Bexar County District Attorney Nicholas LaHood called the video “disturbing.”

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is also monitoring the sheriff’s office probe of the incident.

“Certainly, what’s in the video is a cause for concern,” Pamerleau said at a Friday news conference. “But it’s important to let the investigation go through its course so that we can ensure a thorough and complete review of all that occurred of the evidence and the actions of the officers.”

“What’s important is to make sure that we don’t rush to judgment on any part of this,” the sheriff added.

“It’s very shocking and looks very bad,” Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said of the video, according to the New York Times. “I’ve been in this position for 14 years, and I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Rep. Joaquín Castro (D-TX), formerly mayor of San Antonio, said the video highlights the need for police to wear body cameras.

“The encounter is extremely disturbing as it appears to show an unarmed man with his hands up being shot by a deputy,” Castro said in a statement. “I trust that District Attorney Nico LaHood will pursue an indictment if all the evidence merits it.”

The Bexar County Sheriff’s Office criticized KSAT for airing the video of the deadly incident, claiming it could put deputies’ lives at risk and citing the case of Darren Goforth, the Houston sheriff’s deputy who was shot and killed while filling his patrol car with gas on Friday.

“After what happened in Harris County, we are not going to take any chances,” Bexar County Sheriff’s media relations officer James Keith told reporters. “Now our deputies are coming to work in civilian clothes because of their concern for safety.”

The department added: “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.”

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