Texas cop is cleared of charges after killing an unarmed teenager

A grand jury declined to indict Rey Garza who was off-duty when he fatally shot a 17-year-old

Published August 27, 2014 3:58PM (EDT)

               (<a href='url to photographer'>Carl Ballou</a> via <a href='http://www.shutterstock.com/'>Shutterstock</a>)
(Carl Ballou via Shutterstock)

As a grand jury hears evidence regarding Darren Wilson's fatal shooting of teenager Michael Brown, another jury across the country has weighed in on a similar situation. On Tuesday, a Texas police officer responsible for fatally shooting a 17-year-old man was cleared by a grand jury in Harris County.

Investigators say that Rey Garza, an off-duty cop in Navasota, Texas (just north of Houston), was working as a part-time security guard at his apartment complex when he spotted two teenagers in a car, who he thought were doing drugs.

Rawstory reports:

Garza said he identified himself as a police officer and asked the driver, 17-year-old Jonathen Santellana for identification and ordered him to step out of the vehicle.

The officer said the teen refused, so Garza opened the door of the 1996 Ford Taurus.

But a teenage girl who was with Santellana said Garza did not identify himself as a police officer as he approached with his gun drawn, and she said the teens believed they were being robbed and tried to escape.

"He was aiming at all the windows and towards both of us," said Kalee Marsteller, who was riding in the passenger seat. "Not the tires or anything trying to stop the car -- he was aiming at us.

Santellana attempted to drive out of the parking lot in reverse, pinning Garza between the Taurus and vehicle parked beside it.

Garza opened fire multiple times, and the vehicle sped through the parking lot and struck a curb, which caused it to go briefly airborne...

Santellana got out of the wrecked car and collapsed, and he later died from a gunshot wound to the back.

A neighbor and friend of Santellana, Steven Yarbrough, got video footage of the incident which shows Garza wearing a grey sweat shirt and black pants, with no visible indication that he was a police officer. "I was trying to get videos and pictures," Yarbrough said, "and when I started videotaping, he pushed the phone down and told me that if I didn't delete the video that he was going to confiscate my phone."

Danielle Brock, another neighbor, told the local ABC affiliate: "They expect kids not to run away from an officer that has a gun in his hand, but they don't even know he's an officer."

The Navasota Police Department is expected to make a statement later today.

By Joanna Rothkopf

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Police Texas Unarmed Teenager