A charge has been made against the cop responsible for the killing of unarmed Michael Dean, who was shot in the head during a traffic stop. Temple Police officer Carmen DeCruz was charged with manslaughter on Wednesday following the Dec. 2 shooting and taken into custody, with a bond set at $500,000, according to KCENTV.
The shooting occurred after DeCruz attempted to stop 28-year-old Dean for speeding, according to the arrest affidavit. The report says Dean did not immediately stop, which led to a short pursuit. When Dean came to a stop, DeCruz pulled around the car blocking it in, then exited his car, the affidavit says. The officer ordered the father of three to turn off his vehicle and hand him the keys.
“Officer DeCruz had the handgun pointed at Dean with his finger on the trigger. [He] is seen reaching into Dean’s vehicle in an attempt to gain control of the keys to the vehicle with his left hand while holding his duty issued firearm, his handgun, in his right hand,” according to the legal document.
DeCruz pulled on the keys with his left hand, while his right hand pulled backwards on the gun causing it to fire, subsequently striking Dean in the head, the affidavit said.
An investigation conducted by Texas Rangers determined that sufficient evidence was found to support a manslaughter charge, according to Bell County District Attorney Henry Gaza.
However, civil rights attorney Lee Merritt, who is representing Dean’s family, disagrees with the charge and said that the details within the arrest warrant affidavit is adequate enough for a murder charge against DeCruz, who has not been fired and will remain on administrative leave until he is indicted, KWTX reports.
A manslaughter charge carries a sentence of two to 20 years in prison, in addition to fines upwards of $10,000.
“Temple Texas Officer Carmen Decruz has been arrested for the Dec. 2 shooting death of unarmed motorist, Michael Dean, and charged with manslaughter. The Dean family finds this charge wholly inappropriate given the evidence available in the case. Dean was shot in his temple through a closed-door seconds after being pulled over for a minor traffic violation,” Merritt said in Facebook post. “It is clear that Decruz intended to cause serious bodily harm or death when he shot Michael Dean in the face without justification. That is murder. We are demanding that the appropriate charges be pursued.”
On the contrary, Merritt said he respects the district attorney’s decision, as he “has more information about the shooting, has seen the video evidence and has spoken directly with DeCruz,” according to KWTX.
Interim police Chief Jim Tobin, who offered condolences to the Dean family according to the report, said that an independent investigation will be conducted by the Texas Rangers “without any influence by our agency, and that has occurred.” The investigation should be completed by the end of February.
Tobin requested an “after-action review of the department’s response to the deadly shooting” as well.
The case will be presented to the Bell County Grand Jury for review and deliberation, but the timeline in which the the case will be given to the jury is unclear.