Law enforcement expert analyzes body cam footage of deadly police shooting

Published: Jan. 20, 2021 at 2:34 AM CST|Updated: Jan. 20, 2021 at 9:41 AM CST
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KILLEEN, Texas (KWTX) - A retired police chief turned professor in Texas, is weighing-in on the video released Tuesday by Killeen police of the officer involved shooting that ended in the death of Patrick Warren, Sr.

“My first impression of the video is that it’s very clear, the officer maintains a very equal behavior and attitude through it,” said G.M. Cox, an adjunct professor at Tartleton State University and Sam Houston State University and former chief of police in four Texas cities including Corsicana.

Cox, who was a police officer in Texas for more than four decades before retiring from active policing in 2015, watched the video released by Killeen PD Tuesday of Officer Reynaldo Contreras fatally shooting Patrick Warren Sr. while responding to a mental health call Jan. 10.

Although it’s extremely rare for an agency to release body camera footage of an officer-involved shooting this early on in an investigation before it’s complete--especially in a case this sensitive, and especially one involving the Texas Rangers--Cox says, in this case, he feels it’s a smart move.

“I think in this case, the Chief, command staff and others involved, even Texas Rangers investigators, balance the interest of the public and the greater good against any possible compromise of the criminal case or even due process of the officer,” said Cox.

He says the video is “informative” and “Illustrative”, painting a better picture of the officer’s actions and intent.

“The officer gave clear commands,” said Cox. “Realizing he was in a bad tactical position when he entered the house he immediately backed out, called for backup, and put distance between him and that front door.”

Cox said it was apparent the officer was not a rookie.

Deescalation and crisis intervention training (CIT) is something every licensed peace officer in the state of Texas has to take.

On Tuesday KPD Chief Charles Kimble said Officer Contreras was one of the officers in the department with “extra” training in that area, but still acknowledged a general breakdown at the intersection of policing and mental health.

“When people call 911, we come,” said Kimble. “When I look at the video, I just wonder, if I had 1,000 hours of training, what could have stopped what we saw today? I just don’t know, I don’t know what magic words could have been said to deescalate that.”

Cox agreed, saying “I don’t believe a mental health officer would have changed this one iota.”

KPD responded to the call because a mental health deputy with the Bell County Sheriff’s Office, which had responded to a similar call at Warren’s home the day prior, was unavailable.

According to Lt. Bob Reinhard, spokesman for the BCSO, the Bell County Crisis Response Division was created in 2013 to better serve individuals who suffer from mental illness.

“CRD Deputies help to improve the interaction between law enforcement and mental health consumers by preventing unnecessary restraint, incarceration, and stigmatization of persons with mental illness,” said Reinhard. “These Deputies are specially trained and/or certified in dealing reactively and proactively with persons experiencing mental or behavioral health crisis.”

CRD currently has six, full-time TCOLE certified deputies who serve the unincorporated areas, Fort Hood, and 13 municipalities in the county, he said.

“CRD’s training and experience leads to better call response outcomes while freeing up regular Patrol personnel to handle ‘normal’ call load and response,” said Reinhard.

Cox said it was clear Contreras tried to de-escalate the situation and the “use-of-force” continuum was followed as the officer used alternative methods, including a taser, before he resorted to lethal force.

At the end of the day, Cox says it will come down to what the officer’s ‘belief’ was at the time he pulled the trigger.

“If the officer truly believed that his life was in danger of death or serious bodily injury, than that would be a justifiable shooting,” said Cox.

The case will likely be presented before a Bell County grand jury which will decide whether or not to indict Contreras.

Cox doesn’t believe Contreras will be indicted, based on what he saw in the video.

However, what happens civilly could be a different story, he says, as policy violations can come into play which may be irrelevant in a criminal case.

The Warren family did not respond to requests for comment through their attorney as of Tuesday night.

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