Crime

Euless police interview 24 people in fatal shooting

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Detectives have interviewed more than 20 witnesses in the fatal shooting of an unarmed Mexican national by a Grapevine officer on Feb. 20, Euless police said Wednesday.

Among other developments, officer Robert Clark, who shot 31-year-old Ruben García Villalpando twice in the chest on the Texas 121 service road in Euless, submitted a written statement to detectives Monday.

No date has been set for when the investigation will be complete, Euless police said. After the inquiry, the criminal case will be turned over to the Tarrant County district attorney’s office, which will present it to a grand jury.

“This process typically takes a number of months,” Grapevine City Manager Bruno Rumbelow and Police Chief Eddie Salame wrote in a letter posted on the city’s website Tuesday. “A grand jury review of this type of situation is routine and not an indication of wrongdoing by our officers or department.”

Grapevine will conduct an administrative investigation after Euless completes its criminal inquiry. The letter tells residents that more information will be released soon, including a dash-cam video of the incident. It asks residents to withhold judgment until after the investigation.

Grapevine police have said Clark shot García after he got out of his vehicle with his hands up and continued to walk toward the officer even though he was “repeatedly told to stop.”

The shooting has drawn criticism from the Mexican government, and more than 200 people showed up at Grapevine City Hall on Tuesday evening to protest. Protesters chanted, “Hands up, don’t shoot!” and carried signs that read “Are you going to kill me?” and “Justice 4 Ruben.”

At least two key reports are still being completed in the Euless investigation.

Information submitted to Integrated Forensic Laboratories in Bedford will help develop an estimate of how close the two men were at the time of the shooting. Part of the distance forensic report also has to be completed by the University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth, Euless police Lt. Eric Starnes said in an email Wednesday.

“I don’t have a turnaround for that entire report,” he said.

Also still out is a toxicology report to determine whether García was under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The results generally take six to eight weeks.

Detectives have interviewed 24 witnesses and have one left.

“We have one more that we need to talk to, but that person is avoiding us,” Starnes said.

Domingo Garcia of Dallas, the family’s attorney, has said he will send a letter asking the FBI to investigate possible civil-rights violations. Relatives are also asking that the officer be fired, Domingo Garcia said Wednesday.

Previous encounter

Records in Lewisville show that Ruben García had an encounter with police Dec. 12. A Lewisville officer stopped him after noticing that he was speeding and almost hit another vehicle when he changed lanes on Business 121, according to Lewisville police reports.

He failed four field sobriety tests, the reports say, and was taken into custody.

At the Lewisville Jail, his blood-alcohol levels were 0.29 and 0.30, the reports say. In Texas, someone with a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 is considered intoxicated.

Ruben Garcia was charged with driving while intoxicated, a case that was pending when he was killed.

He 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.

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 records from the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement. Before that, he was a police officer for eight months with the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport Department of Public Safety, state records show.

The shooting

The incident started after García appeared to be fleeing Clark, who was investigating an alarm at 6:23 p.m. Feb. 20 at the Academic HealthPlans headquarters at 3500 William D. Tate Ave., Suite 200, in Grapevine.

After Clark turned on his patrol car lights, police said, García got on the highway at a “high rate of speed” and was seen “weaving through and around” heavy traffic and driving on the shoulder.

When the vehicle stopped on the shoulder of southbound Texas 121 near the Cheek Sparger Road exit just inside Euless, Clark ordered the driver to put his hands out of the car, police said.

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.

García kept walking toward Clark, Eberling wrote. He 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.

García raised his hands and repeatedly asked Clark to stop calling him foul names, said Fernando Romero, García’s brother-in-law, who saw the video.

Romero said two shots can be heard as soon as García steps out of the dash cam’s view.

This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.

Domingo Ramirez Jr., 817-390-7763

Twitter: @mingoramirezjr

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