San Antonio Shooting: What Can Video Footage Tell Us?

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

The Texas Department of Public Safety is closely examining video footage to determine whether a man who was shot by officers last week in Texas’s Bexar County was armed with a knife.

Sheriff Susan Pamerleau said at a news conference Wednesday that a video made public after Gilbert Flores’ shooting last Friday shows his hands were in the air when two Sheriff’s deputies shot him. But a second video raised questions, she said, and officials plan to enhance the footage to get a better look. Details from the San Antonio Express:

The view of Flores’ left hand had been obstructed in a video taken by a witness and given to media immediately after the incident.

Pamerleau said the second video taken at the scene reveals that the man was holding an object.

Pamerleau said investigators believe the object was a knife, but were unable to confirm that with certainty.

Flores’ killing has prompted an outcry. It comes amid other high-profile shootings by police, and raises questions about the use of force against civilians.

Immediately after the shooting, the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement that officers were responding to a domestic disturbance and found a woman with a cut on her head, an injured infant, and an armed suspect. It added:

Two deputies attempted to arrest the armed suspect, but he resisted. The deputies used non-lethal weapons to try and detain the man. When those efforts failed, the deputies fired shots hitting the man.

The San Antonio Express has more details on the story, based on interviews with unnamed law-enforcement sources.  The newspaper said two sources at one law-enforcement agency had listened to real-time sheriff’s office radio traffic of the incident; a third source at a different agency was briefed on the contents of the second video that was shot by Flores’ neighbor. That video has not been released publicly. Here’s more:

“I’m going to die today,” one source quoted Gilbert Flores as saying during his confrontation with the deputies at a Northwest Side subdivision last Friday. “He kept telling them they were going to have to kill him.” …

Before the deputies Robert Sanchez and Greg Vasquez opened fire, Flores had punched and cut his wife and hurt her child, was acting violently and had forced them inside the home, the sources said.

Flores then emerged from the house and tried to stab a deputy, who blocked it with a Plexiglass shield, the sources told the newspaper.

He later “reached in his pocket and pulled his hands out and up, the deputies saw the knife and fired,” the two sources told the newspaper.

“It’s unfortunate,” one of the sources told the newspaper. “When you see that first video, everyone thinks, ‘oh man,’ but that second video supposedly gives you more of a perspective of why they fired.”