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‘I had no choice, man, damn it,’ local officer says after shooting unarmed man with mental health issues

Published: Jan. 19, 2021 at 1:40 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 19, 2021 at 2:27 PM CST
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KILLEEN, Texas (KWTX) – Killeen police Officer Reynaldo Contreras, a five-year department veteran who shot and killed a man with mental health issues as the man ignored his repeated commands to lie down, and instead continued to advance toward him, can be heard on video from his body camera telling another officer after the shooting, “I had no choice man, damn it.”

Later, the body camera recorded Contreras saying the Lord’s Prayer as the mortally wounded man was loaded into an ambulance.

Contreras shot Patrick Warren, Sr., 52, after responding at around 5:40 p.m. on Jan. 10 to a home in the 1600 block of Carrollton Avenue in Killeen after police received a call requesting a mental health officer.

Warren’s family, represented by civil rights attorney Lee Merritt, is demanding Contreras be fired and arrested.

“A mental health call should not be a death sentence,” Merritt said earlier.

A Bell County mental health deputy had responded to the home on Jan. 9 and had taken Warren to a local hospital, family members said.

According to the family, Warren returned home, but the next day his psychiatric issues continued.

The deputy was not on duty on Jan. 10 and Killeen officers were sent to the home instead.

Merritt claimed Contreras “redirected his weapon towards Patrick’s wife” after firing the first shot at Warren, and then “trained his weapon on Patrick’s body and continued to fire his weapon, killing him.”

Kimble, however, while acknowledging a breakdown at the “intersection of police and mental health,” says that’s not what happened.

Contreras, he said, was focused entirely on Warren.

“The narrative is so significantly false we have decided to release the entire video from the Warren house.... we hope it tells a better story and the truth about what happened Jan. 10”

“It’s a tragic situation, it’s hard to watch,” Kimble said.

An unedited version of the video with narration was posted on the department’s website.

**WARNING**WARNING*** Graphic and language content. Viewer discretion advised.

Posted by Killeen Police Department on Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Just eight minutes elapsed from the time Contreras arrived at the home at 5:40 p.m. until Warren was placed on a stretcher and loaded into an ambulance at 5:48 p.m., three minutes after he was shot.

Contreras was dispatched to the home after a caller told a police call-taker Warren was acting aggressively.

The call-taker heard yelling in the background, information Kimble said was provided to Contreras.

A second officer was also dispatched, but was delayed because of the snowy conditions, Kimble said.

The body cam video shows Warren at the end of a long hallway as Contreras enters the house, gesturing at the officer to come farther inside.

One of Warren’s hands wasn’t visible, however, and Contreras backed out of the house to deescalate the situation, Kimble said.

Warren can be heard screaming and growling through the closed door as Contreras waited in the front yard of the home, requesting a dispatcher to “hold the channel,” which other officers would have recognized as an indication an emergency situation was developing.

The sirens of units in which other officers were responding to the home are audible as Warren emerges from the front door of the house.

Contreras trains his Taser on Warren, the red laser dot from the device visible on Warren’s white T-shirt, and shouts, “Let me see your hands.”

Warren ignores the officer’s commands and continues to advance.

Contreras fires the Taser, and advises a dispatcher he has deployed the stun gun.

He orders Warren to get down on the ground, but Warren pulls out the Taser prongs and continues to advance on the officer, waving his arms.

Contreras discards the Taser, which is no longer effective, draws his service weapon, and fires three shots as Warren lunges toward him.

Warren fell to the ground, but continued to reach toward the officer, who repeatedly commanded “Get on the ground Stay down, stay down, lay down on the ground.”

“He waited to the last possible second to use force,” Kimble said.

“Why did the family let Mr. Warren go out?” he asked.

A second officer arrived at the house just after Warren was shot.

Contreras told him he had no choice, and said Warren “just charged me” after the Taser was used.

As paramedics prepared to transport Warren, Contreras told the mortally injured man, “I’m going to pray for you,” and then recited the Lord’s Prayer.

Warren was taken to Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center where he died.

Contreras was placed on administrative leave after the shooting, which Killeen police and the Texas Rangers are investigating.

“Let’s tone down the rhetoric,” Kimble said Tuesday.

“Let’s stop threatening our police officers.”

Officers, he said, receive a mere fraction of the training required of mental health professionals.

There are things “we’re not capable of dealing with,” he said.

Warren’s family has created a GoFundMe account to raise funds for funeral expenses.

Warren had lost his job because of the pandemic and his life insurance policy had recently expired.

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