Woman’s Mental Health Crisis Ends in Deadly Encounter with Police

The San Antonio community is left in shock and mourning after a woman lost her life in an encounter with SAPD officers. As investigations unfold, questions arise about the training and policies guiding law enforcement responses to individuals in mental health crises, prompting a critical examination of the incident.

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Three San Antonio police officers have been charged with murder after a tragic incident that resulted in the death of a 46-year-old woman. The officers involved are Sergeant Alfred Flores, who has served for 14 years; Officer Eleazar Alejandro, with 5 years of service; and Officer Nathaniel Villalobos, with 2 years of service. They have all been taken into custody and terminated from their employment.

The incident took place in the early hours of Friday morning on Old Pearsall Road on the Southwest Side of San Antonio. Police were called to respond to a disturbance involving a woman destroying property. The woman, identified as Melissa Perez, was allegedly cutting wires through a fire alarm system, which is considered a felony. When the officers approached Perez, it was evident that she was experiencing a mental health crisis.

Chief William McManus explained that the officers attempted to convince Perez to go towards their patrol car, but she instead ran back to her apartment and locked the door. They tried to communicate with her through an open window, and one officer even removed the screen door to facilitate the conversation. However, Perez reacted by grabbing a glass candle and throwing it at the officer, prompting the officers to step back and await the arrival of more personnel.

A group of officers positioned themselves at the front of the apartment, while three officers, Flores, Alejandro, and Villalobos, were stationed at the back patio. Despite their efforts to coax Perez out of the apartment, she refused to cooperate. Eventually, two officers jumped over the railing onto the patio. According to Chief McManus, Perez picked up a hammer and began approaching the officers from inside the apartment.

In response to the perceived threat, one of the officers fired their weapon, but it did not appear that Perez was hit. Perez continued to advance toward the officers, still armed with the hammer, and all three officers opened fire, striking her at least twice. Following the shooting, officers forcibly entered the apartment and provided medical assistance until emergency medical services arrived. Tragically, Perez succumbed to her injuries and passed away at the scene.

The San Antonio Police Department conducted an internal review of the incident, and warrants were issued for the arrest of the three officers involved. They have been charged with murder and are now under investigation by multiple entities, including SAPD’s Internal Affairs and Homicide Unit, as well as the Bexar County District Attorney’s Civil Rights Division.

Recently released body camera footage provides some insight into the events leading up to the shooting. The video shows an officer initially approaching Perez in the parking lot of the apartment complex while she was with her dog. The situation escalates as Perez walks towards her apartment, with the officer pursuing her and repeatedly instructing her to stop. When the officer reaches the balcony, he attempts to open the back door without permission, causing Perez to protest and try to close the window. Subsequently, the officer raises his gun and warns her that she may get shot.

The glass shatters, and the situation becomes chaotic as multiple officers gather on the balcony. Eventually, shots are fired towards Perez’s apartment from different perspectives, and she is seen still standing. Despite further attempts by officers to communicate with her, additional gunshots are heard. The body camera footage provides a glimpse into the tragic chain of events that unfolded that fateful night.

As investigations continue, Chief McManus expressed his condolences to Perez’s family and acknowledged that the officers’ actions were not in line with the department’s policies and training. The incident has sparked discussions about the use of force by law enforcement and the need for improved responses to individuals experiencing mental health crises.

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