The unarmed Mexican national fatally shot by a Grapevine officer along a Euless freeway in February was legally intoxicated at the time of his death, according to an autopsy report obtained by the Star-Telegram.
Rubén García Villalpando, 31, of North Richland Hills had a blood-alcohol level of 0.14 — almost twice the legal limit of 0.08 — when his blood was drawn at a hospital after he was shot Feb. 20, the Tarrant County medical examiner’s office reported.
On Tuesday, García’s widow, Martha García-Romero, sued the Grapevine Police Department and officer Robert Clark, seeking release of a dash-cam video showing Clark’s confrontation with García.
“The video and autopsy are both public records subject to the Texas Open Records Act. The family is concerned that it appears there is an attempt to smear Mr. García’s reputation, but yet withholds the video that may show culpability on the part of Officer Clark,” said the family’s attorney, Domingo García of Dallas.
The autopsy report was obtained Friday after the Star-Telegram made an open-records request with the district attorney’s office. The newspaper also filed a request with Grapevine police for the video, which was denied when the district attorney’s office advised against releasing it.
“There is no death penalty in Texas yet for DWI, without a trial, nor does it change the fact that he was unarmed and had his hands in the air when he was shot,” García said in a news release. “It’s time they release the videotape.”
In an interview, García said: “The Tarrant County district attorney’s office told the Grapevine Police Department not to release the video. It seems like they would be able to tell the Tarrant County medical examiner not to release the autopsy report.”
A spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office did not respond to requests for comment about García’s statements or the lawsuit.
The family’s suit was assigned to state District Judge Don Cosby’s court.
The North Texas case is playing out as police shootings are scrutinized nationally. In South Carolina, a white police officer faces a murder charge after being caught on cellphone video fatally shooting a black man in the back as he ran from the officer.
In the Grapevine-Euless case, the Mexican government has condemned the shooting, and several protests have been held.
Rubén García’s brother-in-law said Tuesday that relatives were disappointed when they learned that he was intoxicated.
“I know that they are going to use it against him in the case, but just because the officer saw he was drunk doesn’t mean that he has to be shot and killed,” Fernando Romero said.
“Obviously [his wife] did not want this outcome,” Romero said. “If he was doing something wrong, we are not happy and he should [have been] jailed. But I don’t think that’s a reason to be shot.”
Grapevine police have said that after García pulled over on the shoulder of a Texas 121 service road in Euless, he got out of his pickup. Garcia, 6 feet 2 and 237 pounds, walked toward Clark although he was repeatedly told to stop.
Relatives who saw video of the encounter until the moment García was shot said he was simply trying to reason with the officer, who was swearing and screaming at him.
The confrontation occurred about 6:30 p.m. Feb. 20. García died at John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth at 12:06 a.m.
García’s blood was drawn at the hospital at 9:45 p.m.
“When we get a case like this in the lab, we try to analyze the sample drawn from the hospital at the closest time of admission,” said Dr. Robert Johnson, chief toxicologist in the medical examiner’s office.
Hospital officials declined to comment on the report from the autopsy, which was performed by Dr. Susan Rowe, deputy medical examiner.
The toxicology report also shows a false-positive for the drug oxycodone, which was later proved to be negative, Johnson said. The report also shows a positive test for ketamine, a sedative administered at the hospital.
“It’s very commonly given in the ER,” Johnson said.
The autopsy report says he was shot twice in the chest at an “indeterminate range.”
‘Genie out of the bottle’
District attorneys can be selective about what evidence to make public, said Jack Strickland, a former lead prosecutor in the district attorney’s office.
However, he said, the Grapevine Police Department “let the genie out of the bottle” when it showed the family the video in February.
“The family has no more rights than the public,” Strickland said. “I don’t think they can put the genie back in the bottle as to specific items of evidence” to let the public see.
Strickland said that if the district attorney’s office says “we have legitimate confidential purposes to not release the video,” then the family can ask the Texas attorney general’s office to rule on whether it should be released.
“I don’t know why [Domingo] García hasn’t pursued the attorney general option,” Strickland said.
Euless completed the criminal investigation into the case and turned it over to the district attorney’s office April 7. Euless police did not respond to requests for comment this week.
Sgt. Robert Eberling, a Grapevine police spokesman, said the department has not seen the autopsy report and will not conclude its administrative investigation until the district attorney’s office wraps up its investigation.
The DA’s office has said the case will go to a grand jury. The office declined to comment Tuesday on the autopsy report.
“We will not have any comment on evidence in this case as long as it remains under investigation for the pending grand jury proceeding,” said Sam Jordan, a spokeswoman for the DA.
Monica S. Nagy, 817-390-7792