The Inside Scoop
DECEMBER 14-20, 2018
This community needs to understand the impact Ricardo Treviño’s death can have moving forward and much of it is due to the times in which we live and technology used to record the events leading up to his untimely death Friday afternoon at the hands of our very own police officers. Sources have indicated that officers and patrol units were equipped with cameras which will also help tell the tale of what occurred during the pursuit which ended in the death of this young man. For now however, all we have are what sources tell us, both on and off the record, and the recording of a Facebook Livestream video initiated by Treviño himself during the pursuit.
Regardless of what the official investigation will eventually conclude, what happened here late Friday afternoon was an absolute tragedy. It’s a tragedy for this young man, the community, the people and law enforcement officers involved, and it was especially tragic for the family of the young man whose life ended far too soon. Rest assured, those involved in this incident will never be the same; we, as a community, may never be same — lives have been changed, and I predict that the ramifications of this event will be felt for years and maybe decades to come in terms of its effect on policy, personnel and subsequent lawsuits.
With only the livestream video shot by the victim himself to guide public sentiment, it’s easy to wonder if it could have all ended differently. With Treviño’s vehicle seemingly boxed in, his vehicle presumably in park, his hands visible, and his vehicle possibly disabled (even if only partially), the question of whether officers were justified in their use of deadly force is certainly valid. The truth, however, is that we don’t know, as of yet, what was happening outside Treviño’s vehicle and what the officers’ body cams and the patrol units’ dash cams may have captured which may have justified the shooting. We also don’t know what law enforcement knew about the situation going in, such as, were the officers pursuing young Ricardo Treviño aware that he had at least twice said that he was in possession of a weapon while livestreaming the pursuit on Facebook (there is no official word if he had a weapon in his possession, but none is seen in the video)? If so, did that information affect law enforcement’s decision moments later? Did officers know that Treviño may have been under the influence of some type of substance or had a negative reaction to medication, as reported? Was the Chief of Police involved in the chase and is that unusual? If so, why did he become engaged? Did law enforcement know Treviño was the stepson of one of their own?
But while there’s a lot that we don’t know at this juncture, here’s what we do know: On Friday afternoon, a church off of the expressway in San Benito contacted first responders because Treviño, who may have been volunteering at a church function, failed to awake when prodded by fellow churchgoers after ingesting medication. When Treviño finally came to, he was visibly agitated, jumped into his vehicle and law enforcement gave chase. Soon after, Treviño began livestreaming the chase. He’s seen and heard cussing out the SBPD and lambasting his step-father, longtime SBPD officer, Art Flores, for, “ruining my life.”
The cell phone ultimately falls from Treviño’s vehicle’s passenger seat to the floorboard where the cell phone’s camera was positioned toward the vehicle’s glovebox.
During the final minutes of the video — and here is where the details become crucial — Treviño can be seen shifting the vehicle’s gear shift forward, possibly to the “park” position as the vehicle itself comes to a stop. Treviño, visibly rattled, is then heard yelling, “They’re going to kill me! They’re going to kill me!” while gesturing the universal “slash/cut” sign with his hand at his neck. A series of pops can be heard, presumably this is when the officers may have shot at the vehicle or at the vehicle’s tires, but it’s uncertain. At this point, Treviño, who continues to yell, “They’re going to kill me!” appears to be physically unfazed. Then a shot is fired, appearing to strike Treviño in the head. His hand instinctively reaches for his forehead with an open palm, and then his body is riddled with a quick succession of gunfire. He falls over and moans while commotion among the officers ensues outside the vehicle. One officer is heard calling for a ceasefire then attempting to gain access to the vehicle. Around that moment, Treviño is heard struggling to breathe, gurgling, as blood presumably fills his lungs. An officer is heard frantically saying, “Shut it off!” presumably referring to the vehicle’s ignition, and also telling Treviño that EMS has been called and is en route. Trevino is then heard struggling to gasp for air for the final time.
I’ve personally watched the video dozens of times, trying to piece together what happened that fateful afternoon, and I instinctively want to say that this could have ended differently, that Ricardo Treviño didn’t have to die. But I can’t give into those impulses, not just yet, not until we know more, at least not until we better understand why law enforcement felt the need to open fire on the driver.
I will commend the City on its initial and quick response in issuing a brief but effective statement hours after the shooting. With that said, however, I will add that here we are, a week since the incident and while the Ranger-led investigation may be a long way from seeing its conclusion, it’s time for the City to come forth once again and answer some more questions and divulge the names and ranks of the officers involved, their personnel files and what those officers knew about the situation and when they knew it.