Crime

‘Are you going to kill me?’ driver asked Grapevine officer

Ruben Garcia Villalpando of North Richland Hills with his four children. Garcia was fatally shot Friday by a Grapevine police officer.
Ruben Garcia Villalpando of North Richland Hills with his four children. Garcia was fatally shot Friday by a Grapevine police officer. Family photo via WFAA

As he stepped out of his pickup on the shoulder of the Texas 121 service road Friday night, an unarmed Rubén García Villalpando raised his hands and repeatedly asked Grapevine police officer Robert Clark to stop calling him foul names, a relative who has seen the police video of the encounter said Thursday.

At one point, García asked Clark, “Are you going to kill me?” said García’s brother-in-law Fernando Romero, in an interview with the Star-Telegram.

Clark repeatedly cursed at García and ordered him to stop walking toward him, said Romero, who watched the video taken by a camera in Clark’s patrol car. García kept walking toward Clark after being warned to stop.

“I’m right here,” García said, according to Romero. Then García, a Mexican national who lived in North Richland Hills, stepped out of view of the camera. Two gunshots could be heard.

A police spokesman confirmed that the officer used profanity before shooting García.

On Wednesday, the Mexican government condemned Grapevine police for the shooting and complained that its consulate in Dallas was not notified promptly by police. Consular officials learned about it Tuesday from García’s widow, Martha García. The government statement called the delay an “obvious violation” of a 1963 treaty that orders one nation to notify another promptly about the death of one of its citizens.

Euless police Lt. Eric Starnes said Thursday that because the death occurred at a hospital, the Tarrant County medical examiner’s office was responsible for notifying Mexican officials.

Clark stopped García after a brief pursuit from a business in Grapevine where Clark was investigating a burglar alarm.

Euless police are performing the criminal investigation of the shooting because the chase ended in that city.

Starnes said police met with a representative of the Mexican Consulate on Thursday.

“They have offered assistance if we need anything with this investigation, and they would like to be a partner in future endeavors involving our Mexican-American community,” Starnes said at a news conference in Euless.

Romero talked about the video a few hours before García’s funeral in Fort Worth on Thursday morning. He said he and other relatives were allowed to watch it.

The Star-Telegram requested a copy, but Starnes said the video will not be released publicly because witnesses are still being interviewed.

Romero said the video started as Clark pursued García.

After the two vehicles stopped, he said, García “kept his hands up even when he stepped out of his car. He looked scared and nervous.”

Grapevine police have confirmed that García’s hands were up but said the officer did not know García was unarmed until later.

Domingo García of Dallas, the family’s attorney, said García’s relatives will ask the FBI to investigate possible civil-rights violations.

On the force for 9 months

The Grapevine Police Department is conducting the administrative investigation into the shooting. Clark is on administrative leave and will not be interviewed by Grapevine police until the Euless investigation is complete.

Starnes said that Clark has hired an attorney and that investigators were awaiting a statement from him.

Clark has been on the Grapevine force for nine months and has completed 20 police courses, including defensive tactics, patrol procedures and firearms, according to Texas Commission on Law Enforcement records.

Before working in Grapevine, Clark was a police officer for eight months with the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport Department of Public Safety, state records show.

The incident began when Clark was dispatched to an alarm at 6:23 p.m. Friday at the Academic HealthPlans headquarters at 3500 William D. Tate Ave., Suite 200, in Grapevine.

After several minutes of patrol, he returned to his vehicle and reported a false alarm. Then he saw a Toyota pickup on the west side of the business. Clark turned on his emergency lights, police said.

The motorist did not stop but drove out of the parking lot and onto the southbound service road of Texas 121.

Clark turned on his siren and let dispatchers know that he was pursuing the pickup. Police said the Toyota driver got on the freeway at a “high rate of speed” and was seen “weaving through and around” heavy traffic and even driving on the shoulder.

When the pickup stopped on an outside shoulder of southbound Texas 121 near the Cheek Sparger Road exit just inside Euless, Clark called to the driver to put his hands outside the Toyota, according to police.

García “gets out of the car with his hands up and stands outside his car, while Officer Clark commands him to stop. Officer Clark gives him further commands to not move,” Grapevine police spokesman Robert Eberling wrote in a news release about he incident.

But García walked toward Clark even though he was repeatedly told to stop, Eberling said. The dash-cam video shows García raising his hands “and/or placing them on his head” while continuing to walk toward Clark’s front bumper.

“He knew English,” said Romero, who was his brother-in-law’s next-door neighbor in North Richland Hills. “He just wanted the officer to stop calling him names.”

“He didn’t run toward the officer. He wasn’t aggressive at all,” Romero said.

Eberling wrote that Clark “continued to tell [García ] to get to the back of the car. Two shots are then heard. Officer Clark notifies dispatch that ‘shots were fired’ and he requests paramedics.”

García, shot twice in the chest, was flown to John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth and was pronounced dead just after midnight.

Clark was not injured.

García, who was born in Durango, Mexico, was a mechanic at Friend Equipment in Lewisville for more than 10 years, relatives said. He was married and had four children — three boys and a girl, ages 1 to 10.

María Nohemí García Villalpando, Rubén García’s younger sister, who lives in the town of Nuevo Porvenir in Durango state, said in a phone interview with La Estrella that she was having trouble accepting the news.

“The family was left incomplete. The family is falling apart. My nephews are left without a father,” she said. “My parents are devastated, and my dad is in pain by the way Rubén died.”

Correspondent Luis Ángel Galván in Durango, Mexico, contributed to this report, which includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.

Domingo Ramirez Jr., 817-390-7763

Twitter: @mingoramirezjr

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