An 8th grader from Texas was shot and killed by police right in the hallway of his middle school yesterday (Wed. Jan 4) after he allegedly showed a handgun right when the regular school day had just begun at around 8 am.
According to local news reports, 15-year-old Jaime Gonzalez was fatally shot multiple times by police after he brandished and refused to drop what appeared to be a handgun.
However, the weapon in question turned out to be a pellet gun that closely resembled a real live handgun, police said late Wednesday.
No other students or faculty members were injured in the incident.
“The suspect was ordered numerous times to drop this pistol and he disobeyed officers’ commands,” interim Police Chief Orlando Rodriguez said at a news conference. “He pointed the weapon at the officers, at which point the officers that were actively engaged by the suspect fired at least twice.”
Police spokesman Jose Trevino said that the gun Gonzalez was carrying, a CO2.177-caliber pellet pistol, closely resembled a dangerous firearm. “It had the exact appearance of a Glock,” Trevino said.
“He wouldn’t hurt somebody,” Gonzalez’s godmother Norma Navarro told the Brownsville Herald. “It was not right. … They didn’t give him a chance.”
Navarro said the teen was caring and helpful and, and was always carrying things for her because she’s disabled. “He was always wanting to help,” she explained.
“Why was so much excess force used on a minor?” the boy’s father, Jaime Gonzalez Sr., asked the Associated Press outside the family’s home Wednesday night. “Three shots. Why not one that would bring him down?”
The boy’s mother Noralva Gonzalez showed news reporters a photo of her teenage son on her phone in his drum major uniform standing with his band instructors.
She then flipped to three close-up shots she took of the bullet wounds that littered her son’s lifeless body, including one in the back of his head.
“What happened was an injustice,” she said angrily. “I know that my son wasn’t perfect, but he was a great kid.”
Rodriguez said the teen was pointing the weapon at officers and “had plenty of opportunities to lower the gun and listen to the officers’ orders, and he didn’t want to.”
According to the Associated Press:
The chief said his officers had every right to do what they did to protect themselves and other students even though there weren’t many others in the hallway at the time. Police said officers fired three shots.
Shortly before the confrontation, Jaime had walked into a classroom and punched a boy in the nose for no apparent reason, Rodriguez said. Police did not know why he pulled out the weapon, but “we think it looks like this was a way to bring attention to himself,” Rodriguez said.
About 20 minutes elapsed between police receiving a call about an armed student and shots being fired, according to police and student accounts. Authorities declined to share what the boy said before he was shot.
The shooting happened during first period at the school in Brownsville, a city at Texas’ southern tip just across the Mexican border. Teachers locked classroom doors and turned off lights, and some frightened students dove under their desks. They could hear police charge down the hallway and shout for Gonzalez to drop the weapon, followed by several shots.
Two officers fired three shots, hitting Gonzalez at least twice, police said.
David A. Dusenbury, a retired deputy police chief in Long Beach, Calif., who now consults on police tactics, said the officers were probably justified.
If the boy were raising the gun as if to fire at someone, “then it’s unfortunate, but the officer certainly would have the right under the law to use deadly force.”
A recording of police radio traffic posted on KGBT-TV’s website indicates that officers responding to the school believed the teen had a handgun. An officer is heard describing the teen’s clothes and appearance, saying he’s “holding a handgun, black in color.” The officer also said that from the front door, he could see the boy in the school’s main office.
Less than two minutes later, someone yells over the radio “shots fired” and emergency crews are asked to respond. About two minutes later, someone asks where the boy was shot, prompting responses that he was shot in the chest and “from the back of the head.”
The school was closed immediately after the shooting incident and students were bused to a nearby school where they were picked up by their parents/guardians.
The school district’s superintendent Carl Montoya described Gonzalez he knew as “a very positive young man.”
“He did music. He worked well with everybody. Just something unfortunately happened today that caused his behavior to go the way it went. So I don’t know,” he said Wednesday.
Mr. Gonzalez (his father) said the last time he saw his son was at 6:30 am when the boy told him goodbye before heading off to catch the bus.
The night before, Gonzalez says he, his wife and their son went out for nachos, then went home and watched a movie before the boy went to bed to get prepared for the next day.
Gonzalez says before the incident, he noticed nothing different about his son, and he had no idea where his son got the gun he showed officers from, or why he even brought it to the school. “We wouldn’t give him a gift like that,” he explained.
The AP reported:
Gonzalez Sr. was struggling to reconcile the day’s events, saying his son seemed to be doing better in school and was always helpful around the neighborhood mowing neighbors’ lawns, washing dogs and carrying his toolbox off to fix other kids’ bikes.
Two dozen of his son’s friends and classmates gathered in the dark street outside the family’s home Wednesday night. Jaime’s best friend, 16-year-old Star Rodriguez, said her favorite memory was when Jaime came to her party Dec. 29 and they danced and sang together.
“He was like a brother to me,” she said.
SMDH! What a way to kick off the new year…