A Black Lives Matter advocate said she will continue to push officials to reopen cases related to the police shootings of Charles Roundtree, Marquise Jones, and Antronie Scott after meeting with Bexar County District Attorney Joe Gonzales last week.
Kimiya Factory, the executive director of Black Freedom Factory, a San Antonio racial justice organization, said she and Gonzales sat down last Thursday to discuss the cases, but, as he has done previously, Gonzales did not agree to reopen them.
The deaths of Roundtree, Jones, and Scott – all Black men – have been at the center of rallying cries from local BLM activists since the movement began its resurgence in May following the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police. Jones, 23, died in 2014, while 36-year-old Antronie Scott died in 2016, and 18-year-old Roundtree died in 2018. Grand juries declined to indict the police officers who shot Jones and Roundtree. No criminal charges were pursued against the officer who shot Scott, but Scott’s girlfriend and mother have filed a civil suit that is still pending trial.
Factory held a press conference last Thursday to discuss her meeting with Gonzales, who she said initiated the meeting after earlier telling reporters he would meet with her to discuss the cases. However, Factory said, Gonzales told her he had no plans to reopen them. Efforts by the Rivard Report to reach Gonzales through his communication officer were unsuccessful.
“We will not stop until we see justice,” said Factory, who stood side by side with Marlon Davis, founder of local racial justice organization Black Futures Collective, and Bernice Roundtree, Charles Roundtree’s aunt and adoptive mother outside of the Bexar County Courthouse.
About 150 protesters demonstrated outside the DA’s office in mid-June asking him to reopen the cases. Following the protest, Gonzales told the Rivard Report he needed new evidence to reopen Jones’ and Roundtree’s cases.
“I have not made the decision not to reopen these cases lightly,” said Gonzales, who took office in January 2019 after defeating incumbent Nico LaHood in the 2018 primary. “I have been reviewing these cases since I’ve been in office. But there has to be a legal reason to reopen them and re-present them to a grand jury, and presently, that hasn’t happened.”
Gonzales said he understands why people are calling for those cases to be reopened because of the passion of protesters calling to end police brutality, but the current “climate” is not enough of a reason to charge an officer with a crime.
“I don’t believe that racism had anything to do with these officers’ decisions to fire their guns,” he said of the police officers who shot and killed Jones and Roundtree. “I can say that I have reviewed both of them, and unless there’s any new evidence or information that would lead me to believe that another grand jury would do something differently, I don’t have any plans to refile them and re-present them to a grand jury.”
Factory did not say she had any new evidence, but that she felt the evidence that has been presented by the county isn’t enough of a reason to let the officers walk free.
“I am standing here today to say that the evidence that [the county] presented to me is insufficient,” Factory said of why the officers weren’t indicted. “I believe that the City of San Antonio can do better, and I believe that DA Joe Gonzales can do better at supporting the families and supporting Black lives that matter.”
Roundtree was unarmed when by San Antonio Police Department officer Steve Casanova killed him on Oct. 17, 2018. The shooting occurred when police arrived at an alleged “drug house.” Body camera footage showed Casanova entering 217 Roberts St. and saying “What’s up, man?” to Roundtree and Davante Snowden, who also was shot by Casanova, who failed to identify himself as an SAPD officer.
Casanova fired at Snowden first, striking him in his rear end. Police Chief William McManus later told reporters that the bullet exited Snowden’s buttocks, and hit Roundtree in the chest.
Roundtree’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit in 2018 claiming the teen’s death was due to excessive force. Casanova opened the door with a no-knock warrant and did not identify himself as an officer, according to the lawsuit.
A Bexar County grand jury declined to indict Casanova for the death of Roundtree in 2019.
“We believe that the indictment of Officer Steve Casanova should be the priority for DA Gonzales, as well as the reopening of the cases for the Bƒlack families that have lost lives in this city,” Factory said.
Off-duty SAPD officer Robert Encina shot Jones while working as a security guard outside a restaurant on Feb. 28, 2014. Encina saw a Cadillac rear-end another vehicle in the drive-thru and approached the car. According to reports, Encina observed marijuana and alcohol in the vehicle, and a gun stashed between Jones’ legs. An altercation followed and Encina shot Jones once in the back, killing him.
In 2015, a Bexar County grand jury declined to indict Encina on criminal charges following an internal SAPD investigation that found he was justified in using force.
A wrongful death lawsuit was filed by Jones’ family and went to trial in 2017, but a jury found Encina was not liable in Jones’ death. During the civil trial, Encina said Jones pulled out a gun and pointed it at him and testified that he shot Jones because he feared for his life.
In Scott’s death, Officer John Lee, an 11-year veteran who was working undercover, said he mistook Scott’s cellphone for a gun.
Scott was under surveillance by undercover agents hoping to arrest him on two outstanding felony warrants. As he arrived at the apartment complex with his girlfriend, uniformed officers in marked police cars were called in to make the arrest.
Lee told investigators that Scott got out of his vehicle as Lee exited his patrol car, and that he suddenly spun around in his direction with something in his hand, prompting Lee to open fire. The item in his hand ended up being his cell phone.
While Lee was initially issued a notice of contemplated indefinite suspension, SAPD determined he needed additional training and not disciplinary measures. Scott’s family filed a civil suit that was set to go to trial on March 30, but has been indefinitely postponed because of COVID-19.
Factory’s group is circulating a petition calling for Gonzales to reopen the cases of Roundtree, Scott, and Jones, but it was unclear what further steps could legally be taken in the three cases.