A lawsuit filed by a father whose daughter died during a domestic violence incident turned police shooting has been dismissed in its entirety by a federal judge.
U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez dismissed the remaining claim — a Texas Public Information Act complaint — against the city of McAllen on Tuesday in litigation brought by Hector Hugo Garcia, who sued the city and three police officers.
The man filed suit on Feb. 27, 2019, more than two years after the girl’s stepfather, Cruz Pinon, shot his daughters, L.L.G., a minor who survived, and 16-year-old Ashley Garcia, who died. The stepfather also shot and killed his wife, 42-year-old Santos Verenice Garcia, before dying by suicide.
The dispute occurred after Pinon demanded to see one or more of his daughters’ cellphones. When police arrived, one of the minors made an outcry alleging Pinon had been sexually assaulting her for years.
Alvarez had dismissed claims of civil rights violations, including excessive force and a violation of due process, in April. All three officers had also been previously dismissed from the lawsuit.
Garcia alleged several police officers opened fire after Pinon began shooting and hit his daughter, L.L.G., who was inside the residence.
The only remaining claim was a Texas Public Information Act complaint. Garcia alleged in the suit that the McAllen Police Department had sought to cover up the shooting and had withheld information sought under Texas’ open record law.
The man alleged that he filed the open records requests to learn who killed his daughter. He had requested a host of information, including incident and ballistic reports, as well as dash cam videos. When police didn’t turn the information over, he sued.
“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 stated. “Defendant city of McAllen thwarted all of those efforts.”
But after Alvarez’s April ruling, the city of McAllen provided the entire case file to Garcia, which is reflected in the court record. Those documents were sealed. However, The Monitor obtained the file in its entirety before Alvarez sealed the documents.
After providing the information to Garcia, the city of McAllen filed a motion for summary judgment asking Alvarez to dismiss the case, arguing the open record claim is moot because it provided the case file.
“Defendant, although not bearing the burden of proof on this issue, provides evidence to support that argument,” Alvarez wrote in the ruling.
But there’s another aspect to the ruling.
Garcia’s attorney failed to respond to the motion for summary judgment in a timely manner. The attorney filed an “emergency motion” seeking permission to file a late response to which the city of McAllen objected.
Alvarez sided with the city of McAllen and denied Garcia’s attorney’s attempt to file a late response, ruling that there was no genuine emergency and the attorney simply failed to abide by the court’s rules.
“Plaintiffs, who bear the burden of proof on their claim, must present competent summary evidence to show both (1) entitlement to the information under the Texas Public Information Act, and (2) that such information was not already provided,” Alvarez wrote in the ruling. “However, by their untimely response which has now been stricken, Plaintiffs have failed to do so. Thus, Plaintiffs do not raise a genuine issue of material fact.”