DALLAS – The district attorney of Tarrant County, Texas has instructed police not to release video footage of a Grapevine police officer shooting and killing an unarmed man.
“In order to ensure the integrity of these processes, from start to finish, the Grapevine Police Department will honor the request,” a prepared press statement said.
The district attorney’s request is consistent with other recent police shootings in which evidence of the killing is kept from the public. The district attorney asked police to not release the video because it is considered evidence, although police do routinely release video of other shootings in which officers are not at risk of being prosecuted for murdering unarmed people.
On Feb. 20, Officer Robert Clark shot and killed Rubén García Villalpando, 31, of North Richland Hills, on the Texas 121 service road in Euless, Texas. According to family and friends, Villalpando was a married father of four children, aged 1 to 10, a devout Christian, and a documented Mexican national who had worked locally as a mechanic for the last 10 years.
Immediately prior to being shot, Villalpando reportedly asked Clark, “Are you going to kill me?” An official police statement confirms that Clark cursed at Villalpando before killing him. Clark was placed on paid administrative leave after the killing.
Domingo Garcia, an attorney representing Villalpando’s family, calls attention to the way the district attorney and the police are handling the slaying. “If a regular citizen had shot an unarmed person, that person would be arrested and be in jail pending a grand jury determination,” Garcia said. “Why is Mr. Clark not being treated the same way?”
Police have claimed the unarmed Villalpando repeatedly ignored officer instructions and approached a police vehicle before being killed off-camera. Although police have not released the video to the public, the footage was seen by Villalpando’s family after police were forced to make the video available to them during discovery. The relatives who saw the video say it shows he had his hands in the air when he was shot and killed.
The killing and subsequent handling of evidence has sparked outrage not only from Rubén Villalpando’s family, but also the Grapevine community, the Latino community, and the Mexican government. Recent protests have taken place in Texas where demonstrators held signs quoting some of Villalpando’s last words, “Are you going to kill me?” and “Justice 4 Rubén.”
Villalpando’s status as a Mexican national prompted the Mexican Consul in Dallas to send letters to three North Texas officials, including Tarrant County’s District Attorney. In the letters, Consul José Octavio Tripp Villanueva expressed a “strong condemnation” of the killing, and described it as a “possibly unnecessary use of police force.”
The Mexican government also claims they were not notified about the incident by US officials, which falls outside of accordance with the Vienna Convention, an international law treaty which the US government signed in 1970.