No-Bill in Texas Policeman’s|Killing of Mexican Immigrant

      FORT WORTH (CN) – A Texas grand jury declined to indict a white police officer who shot to death an unarmed, undocumented Mexican immigrant during a traffic stop, sparking protests in two countries.
     A Tarrant County grand jury no-billed Grapevine police Officer Robert W. Clark, Tarrant County District Attorney Sharen Wilson said Monday.
     Clark killed Ruben Garcia Villalpando, 31, of North Richland Hills during a traffic stop on Feb. 20 on the shoulder of Texas State Highway 121 in Euless.
     Police said Clark followed Garcia’s vehicle in Grapevine while investigating a burglar alarm in a high-speed chase.
     District Attorney Wilson released an edited, 6-minute long dashcam video of the chase and traffic stop immediately after the grand jury’s decision.
     It shows Garcia with his hands on his head after he leaves his vehicle, but he ignores Clark’s repeated shouts to stay near the back of his vehicle and slowly walks towards the police officer.
     Garcia purportedly asks Clark if he is going to kill him and Clark responds that he will not. Clark can be heard asking his dispatcher to “step it up” because Garcia is saying “kill me.”
     Soon after Garcia walks out of frame on the driver’s side of Clark’s vehicle, two gunshots are heard. Garcia died from two gunshot wounds to the chest.
     An autopsy revealed that Garcia had a blood alcohol level that was twice the legal limit, Grapevine Police Chief Eddie Salame said.
     Salame expressed frustration at having to wait to release the dashcam video until the grand jury weighed in.
     “It has been very frustrating to listen to people mischaracterize this incident while our department honored the request of the Tarrant County District Attorney not to release the video until it could be presented to the grand jury,” Salame said in a statement. “The dashcam video tells a very different story from the one the public has been hearing.”
     The shooting and investigation came in the midst of a fierce national debate over police brutality, racial profiling and failure to prosecute police. Protesters have expressed outrage over police killings of unarmed minority men in Ferguson, Mo.; New York City; North Charleston, S.C.; Baltimore and Tulsa.
     The Consulate General of Mexico in Dallas quickly became involved in Garcia’s case, expressing anger that the city had not notified the consul of the death of a Mexican citizen.
     The consulate issued a statement criticizing Clark for a “disproportionate use of lethal force” that “erodes the trust that should exist between the authorities and the communities in which they operate.”
     The Mexican government has asked for a federal investigation of the shooting.
     Garcia leaves behind four children and a wife. The family’s attorney, Domingo Garcia in Dallas, said he plans to file a federal lawsuit against the city and Clark. He said the grand jury’s no-bill was not a surprise because police officers are rarely indicted for killing civilians.
     “There is a double standard that applies,” Domingo Garcia said at a news conference. “Police are given the benefit of doubt; they are basically given a license to use deadly force and with little accountability.”
     The consul noted the dashcam video was edited and asked why it did not show the actual shooting. He cited a video recorded by a passing motorist that shows Garcia lying in front of Clark’s vehicle, not to the side as the edited dashcam video indicates.
     “From a layperson’s perspective, there is a discrepancy,” Consul Garcia said. “We want that dashcam video to be authenticated and revised.”
     Wilson said her office declined to issue a recommendation to the grand jury during its two weeks of deliberation.
     “This office is committed to providing justice for all residents of Tarrant County, and ensuring the constitutional right to unbiased consideration,” Wilson said in a statement. “The ruling on this case was made by an impartial grand jury of Tarrant County citizens based solely on the facts, and we respect the decision of the citizens.”
     Clark’s attorney, Jim Lane in Fort Worth, said the police officer was not aware Garcia was unarmed until after the shooting.
     “The only two things that soldiers and street cops can rely on is their instincts and their training,” Lane told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “When they don’t follow their instincts and their training, we end up going to that officer’s funeral.
     “It’s always a tragedy when an officer takes a life. No one is ever sure what they could have done better. You have to take the facts as they are presented. … One shove out in the middle of that traffic, and the officer could have been killed. Our experts said Clark probably waited too long before using deadly force.”

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