Being a police officer is no easy task. At any moment you could be called upon to make decisions that could change lives forever, and you must make the right one or live with the consequences. Which is why anyone seeking to become a police officer should think long and hard about the job they are committing to.
Last year an El Paso police officer shot and killed a prisoner who was handcuffed and sitting on the floor outside the local jail. A Grand Jury hearing and a police inquiry both cleared the officer, but many others believe that the video of the incident should have been proof positive that the officer acted wrongly.
However, the Grand Jury (who also saw the video) believed that the circumstances of the entire day led up to the shooting and that the officer acted in the only way he felt he could.
Still, the video is hard to stomach.
Saenz, 37, had been arrested that day on assault charges after allegedly attacking an off-duty police officer and staff at Del Sol Medical Center, where he had been taken after he was found exhibiting bizarre behavior at an Alberstons supermarket on Yarbrough Drive.
The jail video released Monday starts with Saenz shirtless, handcuffed behind his back and sliding sitting on the floor as he is dragged by Flores and an unnamed prisoner transport guard.
Police officials had said that Saenz was being taken from the jail to a hospital. Jail staff had refused to accept Saenz because when he was being walked into the jail he “struck his own head into the doorway causing himself injury,” according to a previously released Custodial Death Report. In the video, there appears to be blood on Saenz’s face.
Once Saenz is dragged outside, the officer and guard appear to talk to him as he sits on the sidewalk outside the jail’s back entrance.
The scene was filmed by cameras at different angles. There is no one else seen outside.
Saenz kicks, tries turning around and twists, grabbing at Flores who is behind him.
Saenz, according to CLEAT, was also trying to slam his head on the ground and the guard was trying to stop him.
In the video, the guard is attempting to hold Saenz by the shoulders when Flores gets up. At first, Flores appears to reach for the Taser in his left holster.
When Saenz pushes off the guard, Flores draws his Glock semi-automatic handgun from his right holster. The guard moves away and Flores fires a single gunshot.
Flores then holsters his gun, pulls his yellow Taser and gets atop of Saenz, who is face down, bleeding from a shoulder and continues to kick for a few seconds until he stops moving as blood spreads on the ground.
Saenz is eventually turned over. Flores begins CPR before the arrival of paramedics and an ambulance that takes Saenz to a hospital.
Saenz died at the hospital. An autopsy found that the bullet traveled from Saenz’s shoulder and into his chest.
Again, while the video seems damning in and of itself, Mr. Saenz had earlier in the day brushed off five other attempts to stun him with a stun gun and had also shown that he could “front” his handcuffs quickly. The officer feared that with Mr. Saenz’s strength he wouldn’t stand a chance in a hand to hand confrontation.
Whether or not the officer acted properly – this is simply more evidence that becoming a police officer should not be a decision entered into lightly.