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The family of the 13-year-old boy fatally shot by a San Antonio police officer on June 3 is calling for the officer's arrest and indictment because they say body-cam footage contradicts the version of events provided by authorities.
“Stephen Ramos committed a crime on June 3 when he shot without provocation or without a proper justification into a vehicle full of children wounding and killing AJ Hernandez,” Lee Merritt, the attorney representing the boy’s mother told NBC News. “Although we understand the investigation is ongoing, when there exists probable cause that a crime has occurred in the jurisdiction, the prosecutor’s office has the authority to issue arrest warrants.”
Merritt said based on the footage he viewed that this was a “clear civil rights violation.”As previously reported by Oxygen.com Andre “AJ” Hernandez Jr. was driving what police later said was a stolen vehicle with 15-year-old and 16-year-old passengers. Officers were responding to a shooting when they saw the red vehicle, which matched the description of a car witnesses said was at the scene.
Police said they were trying to stop the car when it accelerated and rammed into a marked SAPD patrol car. Another officer -- afraid the officer would be hit by the suspect’s car --“discharged his firearm and struck the suspect driver,” according to a statement released by police.
The two teens were not injured and were released after being taken into police custody.
Andre was taken to the hospital where he was pronounced dead a short time later.
Hernandez’s mother – Lynda Espinoza and Merritt disputes the police account.
“The car was not traveling more than two to five miles per hour,” Merritt told NBC News. “There was no ramming or crash, it was a bump.”
They told the Washington Post the footage showed a scared boy who was trying to move the car away before hitting the patrol car.
Merritt said that the officer got out of his car with his weapon drawn. "In a single motion shoots over his door into the vehicle and fires one time.”
“The gunshot happens so quickly that there was no time for the officer to acquire a target,” Merritt said.
Merritt and Espinoza viewed clips of the body camera footage on Monday, according to the Washington Post.
“There was contact, but this was not a deadly threat,” Merritt told the newspaper. “It was a little boy behind the wheel. The threat was over before a single shot was fired.”
The attorney said the family met with the civil rights division of the Bexar County District Attorney’s Office and expects the case to be presented to a grand jury soon.
“We anticipate that will result in an indictment,” Merritt told the newspaper.
He also said the family will file a federal civil rights lawsuit next week against Ramos and the San Antonio Police Department.
Merritt told the Post and NBC News that the lawsuit will be based on a pattern of alleged Fourth Amendment violations for the use of deadly force and improper seizure and an alleged pattern by the city of providing inappropriate training to police officers.
“The law requires officers to be brave enough to go hands-on when dealing with suspects that they can go hands-on with, but there was never any indication that anyone in this car was armed,” Merritt told NBC News. “They were never aggressive or even disrespectful to these officers. Every child involved in this case showed greater composure than the law enforcement officers they came into contact with.”
Bexar County District Attorney Joe Gonzales told the Washington Post that his office has not received the case yet because police are still investigating.
He also noted to the newspaper that the civil rights division would determine if there was sufficient evidence to send the case to trial.
“Of course, without waiting for the facts, Mr. Merritt will say the shooting was not justified; he is advocating for his client,” San Antonio City Attorney Andy Segovia told the Washington Post. “We also expect any information shared publicly by Mr. Merritt concerning the video will be calculated to advance his perspective.”
Espinoza said her son was deeply troubled by the murder of his older sister in May and had fallen under bad influences.
The 16-year-old Naveah Martinez was fatally shot in a car just blocks away from the family’s home near the same area where younger brother was shot.
As previously reported by Oxygen.com, Espinoza said it took five days before she was informed that her son was shot by police. She found out from watching a local news report.
Espinoza, a mother of ten, said she is heartbroken.
“I just buried a child and now my son is gone,” Espinoza told the Washington Post. “He was a little boy.”
Since the deaths of her two children, four others have been removed from her home and placed in the custody of Texas Child Protective Services.
As previously reported by Oxygen.com, Ramos has been placed on administrative leave. He has been with the SAPD for three years.
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