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Video Shows Police Officer Shooting Handcuffed Man

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Chuck Ross
Reporter

Surveillance video from the El Paso, Texas, jail shows police officers struggling with — and then shooting — a man who was handcuffed.

City officials had blocked the release of the video of the March 8, 2013, incident, but released it Monday after the Texas attorney general forced their hand.

The video, which was obtained by the El Paso Times, shows officer Jose Flores and another man struggling with 37-year-old Daniel Saenz.

Saenz, who was a bodybuilder, was in jail after being arrested for allegedly attacking an off-duty police officer at a local medical center. He was at the center after he was found acting strangely at a grocery store.

The video shows a shirtless Saenz handcuffed behind his back. Flores and another officer are seen dragging the detainee across the floor of the jail and into another room.

The video shows the two officers attending to — and appearing to talk to — Saenz who is seen lying on his back but with his head in an upward position.

As the officers lift Saenz to his feet, he begins to struggle, though his pants appear to have fallen down.

From there, Saenz is pushed onto his stomach where the officers straddle him in an apparent attempt to demobilize him. As Saenz kicks his legs and appears to attempt to roll over onto his back, Flores reaches for his Taser in his left holster.

Instead of using it, Flores throws it to the side, opting instead for his gun.

The muzzle flashes and then Saenz is shown squirming face-down on the concrete floor of the jail.

Blood appears as Saenz ceases movement. The officers attempt CPR, but the man was pronounced dead at the hospital.

Jim Jopling, a lawyer for the Combined Law Enforcement Association of Texas (CLEAT), which is representing Flores, said that “the video does not show an important event that happened earlier in the day,” according to the El Paso Times.

He said that Saenz had demonstrated a strong tolerance to being tasered. He was also observed earlier in the day moving his handcuffs from behind his body to the front — a movement called “fronting.”

“Saenz could quickly front his cuffs and turn them into a deadly weapon, given his considerable strength, agility and demonstrated resistance to the taser,” Jopling said in a statement.

Jopling also blamed the shooting on the other man aiding Flores, whose “arm then hits the trigger hand of Officer Flores, causing the weapon to discharge.”

An autopsy performed on Saenz found DMAA, a substance found in workout supplements.

The El Paso Times obtained the video only after city officials had attempted to block its release. They claimed releasing the video would infringe on the dead man’s right to privacy, and that Flores’s life could be put in danger.

The Texas attorney general’s office blocked the El Paso Times’ first request for the video but eventually forced the city to turn it over.

The El Paso Police Department has been conducting an investigation of the shooting. Flores’s employment status is unknown, the El Paso Times reports.

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