Trigger warning: this story is one of the saddest depictions of a Black man in mental health crisis dying at the hands of law enforcement in recent memory.
A grand jury in Texas on Monday decided not to charge a sheriff’s deputy with the 2020 shooting death of Damian Daniels, a Black veteran who was having a mental health crisis at the time.
The Bexar County Sheriff’s Office released a 27-minute video that includes heartbreaking footage from deputy John Rodriguez’ body cam, which was rolling for most of the altercation. It was Rodriguez who ultimately shot Daniels, killing him.
The video includes audio and a transcript of the 911 call in which Daniels’ brother said that Daniels was “in a state of paranoia,”was hallucinating and that there had been three recent deaths in their family that might have triggered his episode.
Despite that info, sheriff’s deputies responded with no mental health professionals to assist them. Rodriguez and another deputy begged Daniels to let them help while he stood against a wall, motionless. A bulge is seen under his red T-shirt.
The video cuts out briefly before turning back on just as the deputies grab Daniels and wrestle him to the ground. They shock him multiple times with Tasers while again asking him to let them help and finally telling him to stop reaching for his gun, which isn’t visible on the video.
Daniels wears a terrified facial expression, screaming as he’s tased. A deputy yells, “Let go of the gun!” before two shots go off. Daniels wails. The video ends. He died at the scene.
The Root’s editorial team decided not to share the body cam video due to its traumatic nature.
On Monday, local DA Joe Gonzales made the understatement of 2020, issuing a press release that said the country needs to do better at helping people in a mental health crisis, according to San Antonio Report. Gonzales also promised that every police shooting in his jurisdiction that ends in serious injury or death will be automatically sent to a grand jury.
In the meantime, Daniels’ family is dealing with the grand jury’s decision.
From San Antonio Report
Brendan Daniels, Damian’s brother, said via text Monday that his family plans to release a statement soon. “We are taking this time to reflect and work on our next move with proceeding forward with Damian’s case.”
The grand jury’s decision comes two weeks after the Daniels family and activists gathered at the Bexar County Courthouse to demand the case be heard by a grand jury and that law enforcement be removed as first responders to low-risk mental health 911 calls.
This summer, the Daniels family called for Sheriff Javier Salazar to resign for making “material misrepresentations” by releasing still images taken from the body camera footage in the days after the shooting.
While the family had seen the full recordings, neither the sheriff nor district attorney released it. This month, the Bexar County Commissioners Court approved a new policy requiring county law enforcement offices to release body camera footage within 10 days of a “critical incident,” such as a deputy shooting someone.