SAN BENITO — Nora Lugo says she didn’t see her son with a gun when a police officer fatally shot him.
At City Hall, officials say Officer Oscar Lara shot Samuel Mata, 21, after he pointed a revolver at Lugo before turning it toward the officer on the front yard of Mata’s East Powers Street home at about 11 p.m. Wednesday.
“I just want to say I didn’t see a gun,” Lugo, an office clerk, said Friday. “I didn’t know he owned a gun in his life.”
Lugo said Lara was patrolling the area when he arrived at her son’s house as she argued with him about who was going to drive her van, in which her 2-year-old grandson sat in the backseat.
“I wanted my son to get out of the driver’s side so I could drive because he was anxious — he has anxiety,” she said of her son, a pharmacy delivery driver, during a telephone interview. “I didn’t want him to jump behind the wheel — I had my 2-year-old grandson in the backseat.”
Lugo said Lara told her son to get out of her van.
“He said to my son, ‘I’m going to Mace you if you don’t get out of the vehicle,’” she said.
Lugo said she was standing near her son after he got out of her van.
As she reached into her van to turn off its ignition switch, Lara shot her son, she said.
“It was a matter of seconds,” she said. “I don’t know why it got to that point. He could have Maced him. He could have asked him to put his hands in the air.”
A neighbor said she heard three gunshots before hearing a final shot.
On Friday, interim Police Chief Fred Bell did not respond to a request for comment on Lugo’s claim that she didn’t see her son with a gun.
The Texas Rangers are investigating the case.
The city’s side
On Thursday, city officials stated Lara arrived as Mata and his mother were “arguing about the use of a vehicle.”
“The mother was attempting to prevent Mr. Mata from driving off in her car when a physical altercation ensued,” a city press release stated.
“Officer Lara attempted to de-escalate the situation when Mr. Mata brandished a revolver and pointed it at his mother and subsequently at Officer Lara. Officer Lara aimed at Mr. Mata and discharged his firearm.”
Officers administered cardio pulmonary resuscitation before Mata died as a result of his injuries, the press release states.
The incident marks the police department’s second police-involved shooting since officers killed Ricardo Treviño III, 21, who was unarmed when he was repeatedly shot following a 22-mile pursuit from San Benito to El Ranchito on Dec. 7, 2018.
In September 2019, a Cameron County grand jury cleared former Police Chief Michael Galvan, former police officer David Rebolledo and two Cameron County Precinct 5 deputy constables after a Texas Rangers criminal investigation found them justified in using deadly force to shoot Treviño.
After the grand jury’s decision, District Attorney Luis Saenz said Treviño used his Nissan Sentra to threaten the officers’ lives.
Saenz said officers fired 31 rounds.