By Dianne Solis
The Dallas Morning News
Originally published April 13, 2015
Anonymous, the collective of activist hackers, is urging North Texas officials to release a Grapevine police video of a traffic stop that led to the fatal shooting of Rubén García Villalpando, a 31-year-old mechanic who was not armed.
García Villalpando, a Mexican immigrant, was shot Feb. 20 after he was chased into Euless by Grapevine Officer Robert Clark.
An Anonymous offshoot played a role last summer in civil unrest in Ferguson, Mo., when a police officer there killed Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old. The group posted the names and address of the county police chief’s family and misidentified the police officer in the shooting.
In an Anonymous video posted over the weekend by “Anonee Mooseguy,” a narrator demands Euless and Grapevine police and the Tarrant County district attorney release the dash-cam video. The family of García Villalpando, their attorney and various media outlets have made formal requests under the Texas Public Information Act.
“We are tired of this game,” says the narrator. “… We are tired of your cover-ups.”
Lt. Barry Bowling, a Grapevine police spokesman, said the district attorney’s office has cited the continuing investigation as a reason for not releasing the video. Bowling said the Police Department is aware of the Anonymous video. “We take threats to the security of our computer network seriously and have a team of IT professionals that are tasked with maintaining a secure network,” he said.
The García Villalpando case comes as a national debate grows over the shooting deaths of minorities by law enforcement officers. The Mexican government has asked for federal investigations into the García Villalpando shooting and that of two other Mexicans in the U.S. in February.
Police videos were released far quicker in recent police shootings of black men in North Charleston, S.C., and Tulsa, Okla.
In the South Carolina shooting of Walter Scott on April 4, police released their video on April 9. That came after a witness released a more illuminating video on April 5 that showed the officer shooting eight times as Scott ran away. The officer was charged with murder.
In Tulsa, the sheriff’s office released video on April 10 of the April 2 shooting of an unarmed man. In that case, police said a reserve deputy thought he was holding a stun gun when he fatally shot Eric Harris in the back. The deputy was charged Monday with manslaughter.
“Tulsa and North Charleston was the way law enforcement should handle a questionable shooting. Release the video and take immediate action,” said the family’s attorney, Domingo García.
Grapevine Police Chief Eddie Salame has promised an “independent and objective review” of the chase and traffic stop that led to García Villapando’s death. Salame showed the dash-cam video to the family a few days after the shooting but didn’t give them a copy. The family said the video doesn’t show the shooting. They said they heard the officer repeatedly use profanity while García Villalpando asks, “Are you going to shoot me?”
Tarrant County District Attorney Sharen Wilson issued a statement last week that said the case will be presented to a grand jury.
Kelly Shannon, executive director of the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas, said: “Dash cam videos and, increasingly, police body cameras are useful tools for the public to hold government accountable. … We urge citizens to use lawful means to obtain these important records, and we urge law enforcement to act promptly in response to citizens’ requests.”