Federal judge dismisses most of McAllen police shooting lawsuit

Open record claim remains in question

A father’s search for answers about a shooting between McAllen police and his daughters’ stepfather that left one of the girls dead and one seriously injured will continue.

But claims of civil rights violations, including excessive force and a violation of due process claims levied in a federal lawsuit against the city of McAllen have been dismissed.

Hector Garcia sued the city and three police officers on Feb. 27, 2019, more than two years after the girls’ stepfather, Cruz Pinion, shot his daughters, L.L.G., a minor who survived, and 16-year-old Ashley Garcia, who died. Pinon also shot and killed his wife, 42-year-old Santos Verenice Garcia, before he shot and killed himself.

McAllen police responded to the home Pinion shared with his wife and stepdaughters on Jan. 28, 2017, in regards to a domestic violence call. Court records indicate a dispute arose when Pinon demanded to see the cellphone of one or more of the daughters. When police arrived, a minor at the residence alleged that Pinon had been sexually assaulting her for years.

At some point during the interview, Pinon opened fire killing his wife and his 16-year-old stepdaughter. In turn, Garcia alleges several police officers returned fire, striking his daughter, L.L.G., who was inside the residence.

After the shooting, the lawsuit alleges that Garcia made multiple attempts to learn what happened on that deadly night, including who fired the shot that killed his daughter — Pinon or McAllen police. The complaint details how he filed a Texas Public Information Act request seeking incident and ballistic reports, as well as dash cam video from units on the scene that night.

Garcia alleges his efforts were unsuccessful, prompting the filing of the lawsuit, which also alleged several constitutional violations.

“Furthermore, in accordance with the Texas Open Records Act, Plaintiff Hector Hugo Garcia attempted to obtain copies of incident reports and other documents and items held by Defendant city of McAllen relating to the incident that killed his daughter Ashley Karime Garcia and injured L.L.G. through several Open Records requests,” the lawsuit states. “Defendant city of McAllen thwarted all of those efforts.”

On April 1, U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez issued a 23-page opinion dismissing all of Garcia’s constitutional violation claims, while also dismissing the final McAllen police officer, Michael Soto, from the case.

There is now a single issue left in the case between the city of McAllen and Garcia: open record violations.

“Plaintiffs allege that Defendants have withheld dashcam footage of the shooting incident, ballistics reports, incident reports, police reports, investigation reports, and witness statement regarding the shooting incident, and basic information such as the ‘names of investigating officers, the offense committed and a detailed description of the offense,'” the ruling states. “Plaintiffs allege a nonmoot controversy regarding Defendant McAllen’s failure to comply with the Texas Public Information Act and the decision of the Attorney General of Texas.”

Alvarez said she will defer on ruling on the Texas Public Information Act claim until ruling on the court’s judgment of the cases’ merits, according to the ruling.