The chief of police in Killeen, Texas, is defending an officer who shot and killed a Black man during a mental health check earlier this month.
Officer Reynaldo Contreras arrived at the home of Patrick Warren on January 10 after Warren’s family called for psychiatric help.
The police department said in a statement that, upon the officer’s arrival, Warren was “emotionally distressed,” and newly released body camera footage shows the tense moments that led to Contreras firing his weapon at Warren three times.
In the video, Contreras can be seen letting himself into the home after he is told by someone inside to “come on in.” Contreras quickly exits after Warren begins to yell and advance towards him.
Warren can be seen outside a residence advancing toward the officer in the front yard and ignoring verbal commands for him to lie down. After the officer steps backward and continues to issue warnings, like “You’re gonna get tased,” he uses his taser.
Warren initially falls down but then stands back up and continues to push toward the officer. Contreras uses the taser again, but Warren keeps advancing and Contreras deploys his firearm.
Warren, who was 52, was transported to a hospital and succumbed to his injures.
Family lawyer calls it ‘one of the worst officer-involved shootings that I’ve seen’
The family’s lawyer, Lee Merritt, has called for the officer to be fired. “This is one of the worst officer-involved shootings that I’ve seen,” Merritt told reporters earlier this week after the body camera footage was released, according to KWTX.
Merritt did not return calls from CNN Thursday and Friday after the footage was released.
Contreras, a five-year veteran of the department, is on administrative leave, according to the Killeen Police Department. An investigation is underway by the Texas Rangers, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety.
Bell County District Attorney Henry Garza directed all inquiries to the Texas Rangers.
Police Chief Charles Kimble said this week that Contreras did everything he could to use non-lethal force against Warren before he deployed his firearm.
“I don’t see where he could have done anything else. I saw an officer try to handle a call, de-escalate a call,” Kimble told reporters on Tuesday.
“Given the same set of circumstances, I just don’t know what else we could do,” he added.
Kimble said Contreras had more than the minimum amount of mandated training, but he said the police department was looking at ways to better address psychiatric calls.
On Saturday, January 9, one day before the shooting, the county sent a mental health deputy to Warren’s house. Merritt previously told CNN that the meeting with the county deputy went well. Warren voluntarily went with that deputy to the hospital that night but declined to stay at the hospital for further treatment.
When the family called for another mental health check the next day, a police officer was dispatched. According to Merritt, the family wanted a mental health deputy again, rather than a police officer.
Asked why a police officer was deployed on Sunday, Kimble said the call taker raised concerns about what they heard on the call from the family.
“It was a call for a psychiatric person,” Kimble said. “But as the call taker was listening to the caller, if certain things are said, or certain things are heard, then it prompts a different response…It prompted a police response, and it prompted a response from fire and medics who were standing by.”
CNN has reached out to the Killeen Police Employee Association for comment but has not yet heard back.