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Deputies cleared in fatal shooting
by Gary Kent
Feb 15, 2014 | 110 views | 0 0 comments | 20 20 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A screen shot from police video from the shooting that left one man dead. See the video online at www.mySouTex.com.
A screen shot from police video from the shooting that left one man dead. See the video online at www.mySouTex.com.
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BEEVILLE – With the Bee County Grand Jury clearing law enforcement officers involved, Bee County Sheriff Carlos Carrizales Jr.’s office has released a formal statement regarding the Jan. 4 shooting death of 51-year-old Jerry DeLaGarza.

Investigators also released a deputy’s dash camera video of the incident.

The man was shot to death by lawmen on U.S. Highway 59 after he rammed his vehicle into a deputy’s truck and then tried to flee.

Carrizales and his lead investigator, Deputy Lt. John Davis, released the statement Thursday, minutes after the grand jury reviewed the evidence in the investigation and decided no criminal charges were warranted against the officers involved.

The case was investigated by Texas Ranger James Bennett. His investigation began minutes after the Jan. 4 shooting.

“The Bee County Sheriff’s Office had declined media requests for information in an effort to allow the Texas Rangers and the District Attorney’s Office to investigate this incident and present it to the Bee County Grand Jury,” Davis said following the decision to no-bill deputies and city police.

Davis said the grand jury found that deputies were justified in defending themselves in the incident and that no criminal acts were committed.

“We are furnishing a timeline of events that led up to the death of Jerry DeLaGarza,” Davis said in a press release issued shortly after the grand jury’s decision.

Davis said events leading to the incident actually began on Thursday, Jan. 2, when the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Pardon and Parole Division issued a warrant for DeLaGarza’s arrest.

The defendant reportedly had violated the conditions of a parole concerning a conviction on a charge of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

When the warrant was issued, state authorities warned that the defendant should be considered armed and dangerous.

At about 9:47 a.m. on the day of the shooting, deputies received their first call regarding a family disturbance at a home on North Fenner Road. When deputies arrived, they made contact with a 50-year-old woman who said her husband, DeLaGarza, had assaulted her and had tried to set fire to their home.

The woman showed deputies where the man had tried to start the fire in a carpeted area. The spot that was burned had been extinguished.

Davis said the victim refused, at first, to cooperate with deputies, but she said that DeLaGarza had fled the home in her 2010 Cadillac before deputies arrived.

Deputies were back on the street by 10:35 a.m. But 24 minutes later, deputies were notified that the victim’s Cadillac was burning under a bridge on FM 799, near FM 673.

Davis said deputies contacted an investigator with the Office of the Inspector General of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice who was assigned to the U.S. Marshals Service and requested his help in locating the suspect.

Members of the Beeville Volunteer Fire Department joined Bee County deputies in clearing the scene of the car fire while other law enforcement officers tried to find DeLaGarza. The fire scene was cleared by 12:21 p.m.

By then, DeLaGarza’s wife had volunteered to speak to deputies. She explained that he had tied her to a bed and had assaulted her. During the assault, she said DeLaGarza had stabbed her twice with a knife.

At one point, DeLaGarza told the victim that they were both going to burn to death inside the home. But the victim managed to get free from her restraints and was then able to get her husband to calm down somewhat.

“However, at one point, DeLaGarza started a fire on the carpet inside the house, and the victim fled the residence to get help from her neighbors,” Davis reported.

That was when the authorities were called. Investigators then spoke to the suspect’s parents, and they promised to help them locate DeLaGarza. Deputies were told that the suspect probably would be driving a green Hummer 3 vehicle with company signs on the side.

Law enforcement personnel were contacted in several area counties and told what to look for as the investigation continued.

Then deputies learned that DeLaGarza had been spotted at a brushy area near his residence and had been seen taking four cans of diesel fuel in five-gallon containers. Witnesses said the suspect fled the scene in the green Hummer officers were seeking.

A member of DeLaGarza’s family met with deputies, and he told them that he had paid the theft victim for the stolen fuel. Then the family member mentioned that the suspect might have fled to some riverfront property the family owns in Live Oak County.

At about 3:25 p.m. deputies with the Live Oak County Sheriff’s Office spotted the suspect near the family’s property, driving the Hummer. Deputies reported that they had seen the man dousing himself with diesel fuel as he drove away from them.

Live Oak County deputies then followed DeLaGarza as he drove east on U.S. Highway 59 back toward Beeville. They radioed in that the suspect was driving erratically and that he was forcing vehicles and deputies’ patrol cars off the highway.

By that time, Highway Patrol troopers had joined the chase. About four miles west of Beeville, deputies were able to get the Hummer to drive over spike strips, deflating the vehicle’s two front tires.

But DeLaGarza continued driving toward Beeville, refusing to stop for officers. He also kept dousing himself with diesel fuel, and deputies reported that they had seen him trying to ignite the fuel.

As the vehicles approached Beeville with patrol cars boxing him in, lawmen managed to slow the Hummer down to five-to-ten miles an hour.

Davis said deputies continuously pleaded with DeLaGarza over their public address systems to end the pursuit. But the suspect refused to stop.

At the intersection of U.S. Highway 59 and FM 351, units of the Beeville Police Department, Beeville Volunteer Fire Department and Angel Care Ambulance Service were standing by to prevent DeLaGarza from reaching the city.

When the vehicles came within a mile of the city limits, deputies tried one final time to stop DeLaGarza by boxing him in with their vehicles.

But DeLaGarza simply gunned his engine and tried to go around the lead vehicle and escape. Deputies managed to turn the Hummer sideways, ending the pursuit.

DeLaGarza refused orders to stop the vehicle and step out of it. As officers stood nearby, the suspect tried again to ignite the fuel on him and inside the vehicle.

Officers then broke out windows in the Hummer so that firefighters could spray a fire retardant into it, but DeLaGarza shifted the vehicle into reverse and accelerated, appearing to try to run over a deputy who was breaking out the rear windows of the vehicle, according to Davis.

Then, as DeLaGarza put the vehicle in drive and began to step on the accelerator, two Bee County deputies and one Live Oak County deputy fired.

The Hummer bolted forward, striking a patrol car and knocking it several feet before coming to a stop.

Officers found that the suspect had sustained one gunshot wound, which proved to be fatal.

Patrol car dash camera video provided by Carrizales showed a deputy responding as officers were able to get the Hummer stopped. It also shows officers having to get out of the way of the Hummer to keep from being hit by it.

Davis said the video clearly proves that DeLaGarza used the vehicle as a deadly weapon just before the shots were fired.

Gary Kent is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 120, or at reporter@mySouTex.com.
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