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Family says man killed by Houston cop was in mental health crisis

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Family members of a man killed by Houston police last month say the 26-year-old was experiencing a mental health crisis and relatives were actively searching for him when an officer fatally shot him in the Spring Branch area.

Speaking at the headquarters of FIEL, an immigration advocacy group in southwest Houston, the mother of Alfredo Gonzalez Garza said her son had been in and out of psychiatric facilities for years, and that access to better mental health care could have prevented his death.

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“I searched for help for him but the system failed me. They told me the only way I could keep him in care would be for him to commit a crime so that the police would be obligated to put him in a mental health center for an indefinite amount of time,” Minerva Garza, Garza’s mother, said in Spanish.

“I looked around and I spoke up but nobody helped me. I’ve heard the county has put a lot of money into to mental health resources, but what are they doing with that money? Because sincerely they don’t help us,” Minerva Garza said, fighting through tears.

Minerva Garza, mother of Alfredo Gonzalez Garza, says she is not happy with the information and video footage provided by the Houston Police Department during a press conference Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2022, in Houston.  Houston Police Department released video footage of Alredo being shot and killed by an officer during a mental health crisis.  The family is looking for answers to their questions and pushing for better mental health services and prevention.
Minerva Garza, mother of Alfredo Gonzalez Garza, says she is not happy with the information and video footage provided by the Houston Police Department during a press conference Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2022, in Houston. Houston Police Department released video footage of Alredo being shot and killed by an officer during a mental health crisis. The family is looking for answers to their questions and pushing for better mental health services and prevention.Yi-Chin Lee/Staff photographer

Harris Health officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Houston police said officers were called about 7:45 am to the area of ​​Long Point Road and Jacquelyn Drive after a woman reported that a man had hit her windshield with a flag pole, and another man reported seeing a person with a flag pole disrupting traffic .

Surveillance footage of the shooting released Monday shows Garza, who is brandishing a large American flag attached to a flag pole, approaching the responding officer before turning around and walking down Long Point. The officer can be seen following Garza down the street; he then opens fire after Garza turns back toward him and begins to approach him with the flag.

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Police say Garza was also carrying a knife, but the video is shot from too far a distance to see other objects besides the flag. The officer, identified as I. Garcia, did not turn on his bodyworn camera until after the shooting, when Garza was already mortally wounded and Garcia was already rendering aid.

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For Garza’s family, the lack of bodyworn camera footage has only added to the list of questions they want answered. Why couldn’t the officer use a Taser or wait one minute for backup? Why, after many cries for help, couldn’t Garza have avoided this moment and gotten the healthcare he so clearly needed?

“There’s not one video that justifies or proves to me why that officer should have shot him. He had other options and he didn’t use them,” Minerva Garza said.

Houston police declined to comment further about the incident, citing an internal investigation, but officials said Wednesday that Garcia remained on staff and had been placed on desk duty.

Minerva Garza said her worked odd jobs and had been staying occasionally with an aunt in Spring Branch. The night before he was killed, he had been at an apartment with two of his friends, she said, and the next morning another aunt noticed that something seemed off about him, so his mother went out to look for him.

Garza had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder when he first began to suffer mental health issues about three years ago. He was later diagnosed with psychosis, according to his mother. The last time he was institutionalized, in September, she was told her son was beginning to show symptoms of schizophrenia.

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Garza’s family described him as an amiable, loving young man who was never known to show aggression toward anyone, even though he had been physically and emotionally abused by people who took advantage of his condition.

“Alfredo has been with me my whole life and unfortunately he suffered through mental illness, and because of that sometimes he might act strange but never aggressive. I never felt threatened around him,” said his younger brother, 20-year-old Aldo Gonzalez Garza.

Aldo Gonzalez, brother of Alfredo Gonzalez Garza, says it was unfair to Alfredo that a Houston Police officer shot and killed him while he was going through mental health crisis but not aggressive Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2022, in Houston.  Houston Police Department released video footage of Alredo being shot and killed by an officer during a mental health crisis.  The family is looking for answers to their questions and pushing for better mental health services and prevention.
Aldo Gonzalez, brother of Alfredo Gonzalez Garza, says it was unfair to Alfredo that a Houston Police officer shot and killed him while he was going through mental health crisis but not aggressive Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2022, in Houston. Houston Police Department released video footage of Alredo being shot and killed by an officer during a mental health crisis. The family is looking for answers to their questions and pushing for better mental health services and prevention.Yi-Chin Lee/Staff photographer

“In fact, he was always the victim, but no matter what they did to him, he was ok and you were still his friend,” he said. “It’s something I’m not prepared for but I have to deal with now, because the officer that tried to handle the situation obviously did not know how to do his job properly.”

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