03/26/2007

San Antonio man fatally shot by officers after pointing gun

By Brian Chasnoff
San Antonio Express-News

SAN ANTONIO — In the first officer-involved shooting this year, police shot and killed a 23-year-old man they say had just robbed a Northeast Side video store late Friday — the same day another man died after struggling with two officers.

Police said Deon Johnson pointed a handgun at two officers who were pursuing him and two other suspects as they fled the store.

Both officers fired at Johnson, killing him, police said. No one else was injured.

"The officers had no choice but to resort to deadly force," said police spokesman Joe Rios.

Dustin Allen Smith, 18, and Jonathan Smith, 23, were arrested and charged with burglary. Each was being held on a bond of $50,000.

Police Chief William McManus visited the scene and defended the officers' actions — as he has done with the three other officer-involved shootings during his nearly one year on the job.

Those incidents included a wanted man who was killed after he dove toward his motel bed, grabbed a handgun and pointed it at police. Another died after he was ejected from his car during a police chase that included shooting. A third man was grazed by an officer's bullet after the officer saw him reach into his jacket for "something black," later determined to be his keys.

McManus took office shortly after a deadly spate in February and March last year when officers, fearing for their safety or that of others, fired their weapons on six occasions, killing three suspects. At the time, McManus vowed to keep such shootings to a minimum.

At 11:51 p.m. Friday, police were called to the Blockbuster Video at Nacogdoches and Judson roads for a robbery in progress. The caller said three armed men had walked into the store, according to a Police Department news release.

An off-duty officer in the area responded to the call and saw Blockbuster employees lying on the floor. He relayed that information and waited for backup, the release stated.

On-duty officers Christopher Garrison, a five-year veteran, and Spenc Jones, who has been with the department 2 1/2 years, arrived and saw three men leaving the store. At least one of the men was armed with a handgun, the release said.

Both officers ordered the men to stop, but they ran around the outside of the store. As the officers chased them, Johnson turned and pointed the handgun at both officers, the release said.

Both officers fired and struck Johnson several times. He fell to the ground and died. Police later found the two other suspects hiding in separate locations.

Rios was uncertain where on the body or how many times Johnson was hit by the bullets.

Garrison and Jones will be placed on routine administrative duty until an internal investigation of the shooting ends.

Sheila Ruth, the mother of Dustin Allen Smith, said she hopes her son's arrest will sway him from a bad path. To that end, she didn't plan on bailing him out Saturday.

Police are authorized to use deadly force only when protecting an officer or another person from "what is reasonably believed to be an immediate threat of death or serious bodily injury," according to the Police Department's general manual.

Early Friday, Sergio Galvan, 35, died after an altercation with police. Two officers were trying to help Galvan, who was running down his South Side street in distress. But Galvan attacked the officers, police said.

In defense, police pepper-sprayed him and deployed a Taser three times at close range. Galvan died shortly afterward. The cause of his death remains under investigation.

Staff Writer Lomi Kriel contributed to this report.

Copyright 2007 San Antonio Express-News
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