The family and estate of Jesse Aguirre, who died after he was handcuffed and held facedown by police on a highway in 2013, will receive a $466,300 settlement from the City of San Antonio.
City Council unanimously approved the settlement without discussion on Thursday, just as it did last month when the city paid $450,000 to the family of Antronie Scott, an unarmed Black man who was shot and killed by a police officer in 2016.
Blanca Aguirre, Aguirre’s widow who sued the city and officers present during the incident, agreed to the settlement that is now pending a procedural court order. Her attorney, Edward Piña, could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday.
The city’s decision to settle was based on the risk of further costs associated with litigation and appeals as well as the uncertainty of a jury trial, City Attorney Andy Segovia told reporters after the settlement was approved.
It’s also been nine years since the incident occurred, Segovia said. “It’s very difficult, for example, for eyewitnesses to recall what happened many years ago.”
An appeal process and court case backlogs associated with the coronavirus pandemic further delayed this and other pending cases, he said.
The terms of the settlement include $100,000 to Aguirre’s estate, $166,300 to Blanca Aguirre and $200,000 to his son, Jesse Aguirre, Jr. The settlement is funded through the city’s Self-Insured Liability Fund, which is used to pay claims against the city.
The city was removed from the lawsuit by a district court several years ago, but it continued to defend the officers. The case was slated for a jury trial last month after a panel of the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans found that qualified immunity, which usually protects officers from liability in use-of-force cases, didn’t necessarily apply in this case.
The jury was to determine if excessive force was used when three officers restrained Aguirre on his stomach on the side of U.S. 90 for more than five minutes. When officers observed that he was no longer breathing, attempts to resuscitate him were unsuccessful.
None of the officers named in the lawsuit — Cristina Gonzales, Roberto Mendez, Bettina Arredondo, Jennifer Morgan and Benito Juarez — were disciplined for the incident, Segovia said.
Arredondo and Morgan left SAPD for reasons unrelated to this incident, a city spokeswoman said. The others remain on the force.
An autopsy indicated the cause of death was “excited delirium associated with cocaine and ethanol intoxication.”
“Excited delirium” was also cited in the 2020 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Floyd was also held facedown by police officers, leading to the common comparison to Aguirre’s death as the “George Floyd case” of San Antonio.
The American Psychiatric Association’s diagnostic handbook doesn’t include the condition, noted the Associated Press, which cited a 2020 study that found excited delirium is mostly cited as a cause when the person who died had been restrained.
The outcome of Floyd case — a jury found one officer guilty of murder while other officers await criminal trials — had no bearing on the Aguirre settlement, Segovia said.
“We think it’s a very different case,” he said. “We always look at the facts of a particular case when we make a settlement decision.”