Police officer shot to death; police veteran's pistol missing
[San Antonio, TX]

Rudolph Bush, Ihosvani Rodriguez and Lisa Sandberg
February 3, 2001, Saturday , Metro
Copyright 2001 San Antonio Express-News
San Antonio Express-News
February 3, 2001, Saturday , Metro

(SAN ANTONIO, Texas) --An 11-year police veteran was fatally shot late Friday at a Northwest Side apartment complex.

John Anthony Riojas, 37, affectionately known as "Rocky" within the department, was pronounced dead at 12:07 a.m. today after his family made the decision to take him off life support, Police Chief Al Philippus said.

"The family had to make some very difficult decisions for him," Philippus said during a news conference at 12:35 a.m.

The shooting apparently occurred after Riojas struggled with a man he'd been chasing on foot.

The chief said Riojas "was a real hard worker, someone who everybody admired, somebody who tried to make this community a better place."

Riojas was married and the father of two children, one born only recently.

It was unknown what type of gun was used in the shooting, and the officer's pistol hadn't been found early today, police said.

After the incident at about 9:40 p.m., dozens of officials searched the area around the Stone Hollow Apartments in the 9400 block of Fredericksburg Road.

At least five people had been detained for questioning, Philippus said, although none was considered a suspect.

Police officers and Bexar County sheriff's deputies - including the sheriff's gang unit - were involved in the manhunt and investigation.

Riojas, a member of the Street Crimes Arrest Team unit, reportedly was in uniform when he was shot.

The specialized unit serves felony warrants, handles crimes involving firearms and investigates narcotics trafficking, among other duties.

The officer was alone when he was shot in the forehead, but other SCAT officers reportedly were in the area.

SCAT officers operate over a special radio frequency but can alert patrol officers in emergencies, police spokesman Gabe Trevio said.

He said Riojas was unable to radio for help but other officers arrived within a minute of the broadcast that shots had been fired and found Riojas.

The shooting occurred in the back of the apartment complex near a bank of mailboxes, Trevio said.

Jeffrey Callihan, 18, a Stone Hollow resident, said he remembers previous shootings in the apartment complex, which this week changed its name from The Seasons.

Callihan said that lately, things had been quiet.

"It died down for awhile," he said. "This past summer, it was pretty bad - a lot of cops, a lot of people standing on the corners partying. But a lot of people moved away or went to jail."

Chelesia Godley and her 6-year-old son, Devon Burley, were putting stickers in their windows when they heard three gunshots, she said.

Godley said she and her son got on the floor. She has heard shots within the past couple of days at the complex, she said.

Officers were knocking on every door of the apartment complex, documenting who was home at the time, and were checking car license plates.

Canine units and helicopters joined the search.

Some 75 police officers were at the hospital early today mourning Riojas' death.

"We're all taking this very hard right now," Philippus said.

Riojas is the fourth SAPD officer to die in the past 45 days, Philippus said, including David Lundell, who died Wednesday after a Tuesday car accident in Floresville.

"They have a very good staff here at the hospital," the chief said. "However, we have to stop meeting like this. It's been very rough for us."

Copyright 2000 LEXIS-NEXIS, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights Reserved.

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