On July 31, 2015, a Fort Worth police officer—a veteran who had been on the force for 23 years, but has yet to be identified—shot an armed suspect near West 5th and Houston Streets in Fort Worth, Texas. According to news reports, the police officer has been placed on administrative leave pending an investigation.
Police Break Up Fight
The shooting was preceded by officers responding to a fight between two men around 1:30 a.m. Both men were instructed by officers to stop fighting, and to put up their hands. One man, who has been identified as Phillip Vallejo, had a handgun. According to officers’ statements, Vallejo was instructed to put down his weapon, but did not. Thinking that Vallejo may fire upon officers or others, the veteran police officer shot him. Some reports indicate that Vallejo was shot up to five times.
Vallejo was celebrating his 30th birthday that night. His family members have stated that he was not armed at the time of shooting and was not waving around a gun, contrary to police statements. The Fort Worth Police Internal Affairs Unit is investigating the shooting.
Police and Weapon Use
The shooting of Vallejo is one example in a string of many police shootings that have occurred in recent months. The incident highlights questions of reasonable use of force, and whether or not police use guns too eagerly. Vallejo’s family has yet to say whether or not they plan to file charges against the officer or Fort Worth police department, but expressed dismay at the way the incident was handled. Vallejo’s sister-in-law, Elizabeth Gonsman, later told reporters that she didn’t understand why officers couldn’t use a taser. And, after he had been shot multiple times, why Vallejo was not given more instantaneous medical care; instead, he was handcuffed on the ground while bleeding severely. The incident was caught on tape, which will surely shed light on the incident.
What to Do When Facing an Arrest or Criminal Charges
If confronted by a police officer in Fort Worth or elsewhere, it is extremely important that you follow instructions and do not interfere with the police officer’s duties. Threatening an officer or refusing an order can be incredibly risky.
However, know that if you are arrested and criminal charges against you are filed, you have the right to an attorney. And if your rights were violated during an arrest, you can take legal action.