3 San Antonio police officers charged with murder in shooting of woman

Three members of the San Antonio Police Department were arrested and charged with murder hours after officers fatally shot a woman who had swung a hammer toward them during a “mental health crisis,” officials said.

The officers — Eleazar Alejandro, Nathaniel Villalobos and Sgt. Alfred Flores — were released on bond Saturday, a day after they were charged, according to Bexar County jail records. The three were also suspended without pay, San Antonio Police Chief William McManus said at a news conference on Friday.

Police were called to an apartment building early Friday morning following reports that a woman had cut wires to the complex’s fire-alarm system. When the woman, whom the police later identified as Melissa Perez, 46, swung a hammer after going into her apartment and refusing to come out, officers fatally shot her, body-camera footage shows.

McManus said the officers’ actions were “not consistent” with the police department’s policy and training. Flores was with the department for 14 years, Alejandro for five and Villalobos for two, he said.

“They placed themselves in a situation where they used deadly force which was not reasonable given all the circumstances as we now understand them,” McManus said, adding that the police department and Bexar County district attorney’s office are investigating the incident.

Danny Diaz, president of the San Antonio Police Officers’ Association, said in a statement to the San Antonio Express-News that the chief followed “all necessary protocols” after the incident and that the officers had been suspended indefinitely. The association cannot “speak to the matter further until the investigation is complete and the judicial process is underway,” he added.

Dan Packard, an attorney for Perez’s family, told the Express-News that the woman had a history of mental illness. He said the police failed to properly address the mental health problem Perez was experiencing during the incident.

“Where was the, ‘We know that you need help. We’re here to help. We’re trying to protect you. We’re tying to get you the help that you need’?” Packard said, according to the paper.

Police arrived at the complex where Perez lived after midnight on Friday. When they tried to walk her to a patrol car, she went into her apartment and locked the door, McManus said. Officers began trying to speak with her through an open window after they saw damage to the fire alarm, determining it was a felony criminal mischief, McManus said.

Body-camera footage released Friday shows at least one officer following the woman to the first-floor apartment, where he jumps over a balcony railing and onto a patio. He then removes the screen from an open window, video shows.

While inside, Perez grabbed a hammer, police allegation. An officer then drew his weapon and yelled, “You’re going to get shot,” according to body-cam footage. McManus said Perez threw a glass candle through the window. The footage does not clearly show the candle or the hammer because Perez’s figure is blurred throughout.

Police said officers then communicated with Perez through the window for more than 30 minutes, but she did not come out of her apartment. According to McManus, by then, more officers had arrived, some standing near her patio and some outside her front door.

The video later shows two officers jump over the patio railing and onto Perez’s patio. She then swung the hammer and hit the window, shattering its glass, McManus said. One officer fired several times into the apartment but did not hit Perez, he said. After the shots were fired, Perez backed away.

The next time she came toward the window, officers again began shooting, according to the body-camera footage. Perez was struck at least twice, McManus said, and was declared dead at the scene.

The footage did not identify the officers involved.

McManus said on Friday that the San Antonio Police Department was conducting internal affairs and homicide unit investigations, but he did not provide a timeline for when the probes would be completed.

He added that the department did not anticipate additional charges for other officers but said everyone who was on the scene would be questioned.

In the news conference Friday, he expressed condolences to Perez’s family, adding that he wanted to assure his daughter that the incident “will continue to be thoroughly investigated.” The county district attorney’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment Sunday night.

Perez’s family plans to file a lawsuit this week, Packard told the Express-News.

On Sunday, Perez’s daughter, Alexis Tovar, told reporters that she had seen the body-camera footage of the shooting, according to the paper.

“It’s something you can never unsee. It hurts,” Tovar said. “There are no words that can express the hurt that this has caused my family.”

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