FARMERS BRANCH (CBSDFW.COM) – Friends and family members of 16-year-old Jose Raul Cruz are demanding some answers Tuesday after the teen was shot and killed by a Farmers Branch police officer. The incident happened Sunday evening near a gas station near the intersection of Marsh Lane and Spring Valley Road.
Authorities said that off-duty officer Ken Johnson saw Cruz and a teenage friend breaking into cars at an Addison apartment complex where Johnson lives. The officer and the teens were then involved a car chase which ended in an altercation. Johnson rammed the car that Cruz was driving, and shots were fired. Cruz was killed, and was allegedly unarmed.
The passenger inside of Cruz’s vehicle was also hurt and sent to the hospital with a gunshot wound to the head, later alleged to be a grazing of the ear that also took off the boy’s finger as he covered his face during the gunfire. The injuries are not life threatening. That victim’s name has not been released.
Cruz’s loved ones now want to see Johnson face charges for the shooting death, saying that the teenager was murdered — and they have proof. Family representative Carlos Quintanilla on Tuesday released a series of pictures showing the officer at Cruz’s car when the shots were fired.
One photograph appears to show Johnson with his gun drawn, several feet away from the vehicle. Another picture shows that hurt passenger on his knees after being pulled from the car. Quintanilla called the attack a case of racial profiling. “The officer acted with the premeditated intent to kill these kids,” he said.
“I want him in jail. I can’t believe he’s free,” Cruz’s grandmother wailed in Spanish on Tuesday morning.
Chris Livingston is Johnson’s lawyer. He said that the officer did nothing wrong. “When an officer sees a crime committed in the State of Texas, he is obligated to take action, and that’s what Officer Johnson did in this case,” Livingtson said.
Johnson has only been with the Farmers Branch Police Department for one year, but was previously a part of the Dallas Area Rapid Transit’s police department for several years. He has no history of any disciplinary action. He is now on administrative leave.
“The two criminals matched the descriptions of two suspects that had been involved in multiple burglaries in the area,” added Livingston. “They had a situation that put Officer Johnson in fear for his life, and at that point in time, he felt he had no choice but to pull the trigger.”
That argument does not satisfy those who believe that deadly force was unnecessary. Protesters gathered outside of the police stations in Farmers Branch and Addison on Monday night while a vigil was being held near Bachman Lake. Juan Romano was one of more than 100 people who met to remember Cruz. “Just the nicest kid I’ve known,” Romano said at the tearful vigil. “I don’t know why they took him away from us.”
Chief Sid Fuller with the Farmers Branch Police Department and Chief Paul Spencer with the Addison Police Department met with the teen’s family on Tuesday morning. Fuller expects that the investigation of this case will be complete by the end of the week. “What we’re asking for is patience,” Fuller explained. “This is a very complex investigation. There’s scientific evidence. There’s eyewitnesses. There’s videos. We need time to do this right. We only get one shot at it.”
Both police departments are conducting their own independent investigations of this case.
At a news conference held later on Tuesday afternoon, Fuller reiterated his comment. “We will not rush this investigation. We will not speculate about the findings of these two departments or of any other authority or agency that may become involved,” he said. “We’re not being secretive, we’re being thorough.”
Police mentioned specific policies and steps that should be taken when off-duty officers are enforcing the law. But when asked if those policies allow for an off-duty officer to chase suspects in a personal vehicle, Fuller said, “No, they do not.” And when asked about the policies for officers to ram a suspect’s vehicle, Fuller said, “We don’t do it. There’s no policy for that. We’re not talking about an emergency vehicle, which our policy covers — pursuits and emergency vehicles.”
Spencer added that Johnson will likely give his statement about the incident to investigators before the end of Tuesday.
Quintanilla expects that Johnson will be in custody when that investigation is complete. “It was rage. It was anger,” the family representative added. “It was not chasing a suspect.”