Three officers in Texas charged with murder after firing shots into distressed woman’s apartment

Melissa Perez, 46, ‘was having a mental health crisis,’ according to police chief

Alex Woodward
Sunday 25 June 2023 11:41 EDT

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Three police officers in San Antonio, Texas have been charged with murder after fatally shooting a woman experiencing a mental health crisis, officials said.

Sergeant Alfred Flores and officers Eleazar Alejandro and Nathaniel Villalobos were taken into custody less than 24 hours after the deadly incident.

The officers had responded to a call after midnight on Friday at the home of Melissa Perez, 46, who was allegedly cutting wires to a fire alarm system at her apartment complex in the city.

After initially speaking to the officers, Perez ran to her apartment and locked the door, San Antonio Police Chief William McManus told a press conference on Friday.

Body-cam footage released from the San Antonio Police Department (SAPD) appears to show the officers trying to speak with Ms Perez through a window at the rear of the apartment, urging her to come out.

On the footage, she can be heard telling the officers that they do not have a warrant. “You’re going to get shot,” an officer can be heard saying at one point.

One officer appears to try to open a window. Ms Perez threw a candleholder, then swung a hammer which hit the window and broke it, Chief McManus said.

One officer then opened fire but it appeared that Ms Perez was not shot.

Seconds later, Perez “advanced toward the window again while still holding the hammer, and all three officers opened fire”, according to the police chief.

More than a dozen shots can be heard on the video. Perez was struck at least twice, according to Chief McManus. She died at the scene.

“It appeared that Ms Perez was having a mental health crisis,” Chief McManus said.

“The shooting officers’ actions were not consistent with SAPD policies and training, and they placed themselves in a situation where they used deadly force which was not reasonable given all the circumstances as we now understand them,” he added.

The officers were suspended without pay and taken into custody later on Friday.

Mr Flores is a 14-year veteran of the department while the other two officers have been with the force for five and two years, respectively.

All three were released on $10,000 bond, according to Bexar County jail records. A preliminary hearing date has been set for 25 July.

Investigations from SAPD’s Internal Affairs and Civil Rights divisions and the Bexar County district attorney’s Civil Rights Division are underway.

From left to right: San Antonio police Sergeant Alfred Flores and officers Eleazar Alejandro and Nathaniel Villalobos were charged with murder after the fatal shooting of Melissa Perez on 23 June

“We have always been a pro-police family. This breaks my heart. I always trusted the police to protect me and now I don’t know who to trust. We can’t express how hurt we are,” Perez’s daughter Alexis Tova told ABC News.

An arrest warrant for the officers states that Perez “did not pose an imminent threat of serious bodily injury or death when she was shot because the defendants had a wall, a window blocked by a television, and a locked door between them.”

A statement from the San Antonio Police Officers’ Association to The New York Times offered its “deepest condolences” to the victim’s family.

“At this time, this is an active investigation, and can’t speak to the matter further until the investigation is complete and judicial process is underway,” the statement said.

The latest incident follows a history of police violence in San Antonio. Police fatally shot unarmed Black teenager Charles Roundtree Jr in 2018.

Two years earlier, allegedly believing that the cellphone in his hand was a gun, an officer fatally shot Antronie Scott. In 2014, an off-duty officer fatally shot Marquise Jones in the back as he ran from a minor traffic incident.

“We acknowledge the speed in which these officers have been charged, but let’s be honest – this senseless loss of life should never have occurred,” according to a statement from San Antonio criminal justice reform group ACT 4 SA.

“True justice would have been responding to a community member having a mental health crisis in a compassionate manner,” according to the statement. “True justice would be Melissa still being here with us today.”

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