Three San Antonio police officers were charged with murder on Friday after police shot and killed a 46-year-old woman, who swung a hammer in their direction and appeared to be in distress, in her home, officials said.
The three officers, Sgt. Alfred Flores, Officer Eleazar Alejandro and Officer Nathaniel Villalobos, have been suspended without pay and were taken into custody on Friday. They have been with the San Antonio Police Department for 14, five and two years.
“The shooting officers’ actions were not consistent with S.A.P.D.’s policy and training,” William McManus, chief of the department, said at a news conference Friday night. “They placed themselves in a situation where they used deadly force, which was not reasonable given all the circumstances as we now understand them.”
The officers received a call just after midnight on Friday morning of a disturbance at an apartment complex in the Southwest Side of San Antonio, Mr. McManus said. The woman, whom authorities identified as Melissa Perez, was cutting fire alarm wires at the complex, which is a felony crime, police said.
When the officers arrived at the scene, Ms. Perez was speaking to fire department officials in the parking lot.
Mr. McManus said it appeared she was having a “mental health crisis.” When officers tried to get her to walk toward their car, she ran into her apartment and locked the door.
After climbing over her porch railing, an officer opened her window screen and said, “You’re going to get shot,” according to body camera footage released by the department. Ms. Perez said, “Shoot me,” and said they didn’t have a warrant.
Mr. McManus said Ms. Perez picked up a candle and threw it at an officer. The sound of glass shattering can be heard in the body camera footage, but it is unclear from the video what is occurring.
The police then waited outside the apartment for backup, and a group of officers went to the front of her apartment. Officers Flores, Alejandro and Villalobos were stationed on the porch in the back.
Two officers jumped over the patio railing, Mr. McManus said, and Ms. Perez picked up a hammer and began approaching them.
She then swung the hammer, Mr. McManus said, toward an officer who was outside the apartment, and hit a window, breaking it. An officer shot at Ms. Perez, but it appears she was not hit, McManus said. She went toward the window again, still holding the hammer, and all three of the officers opened fire. She was hit at least two times, and emergency medical services pronounced her dead at the scene.
Danny Diaz, president of the San Antonio Police Officers’ Association, said in a statement that the organization offered “our deepest condolences to Melissa Perez’s family.” But he declined to comment further. “At this time, this is an active investigation, and can’t speak to the matter further until the investigation is complete and judicial process is underway,” he said in the statement.
San Antonio has a long history of police violence. In 2018, a police officer shot and killed Charles Roundtree Jr., an unarmed Black teen. A police officer shot unarmed Antronie Scott, 36, in 2016 because he thought he was holding a gun; it was a cellphone. And an off-duty police officer killed Marquise Jones, 23, in 2014, shooting him in the back while he was running from the scene of a minor traffic accident.
Ananda Tomas, executive director of ACT 4 SA, a police accountability organization, said that even though there was an abnormally swift response in charging the officers, it remained to be seen whether they would be indicted or punished.
Activists, she said, will continue to work to prevent similar incidents from occurring again and will offer support and advocacy to Ms. Perez’s family. She emphasized that true justice would mean that Ms. Perez was still alive.
“True justice would have been responding to a community member having a mental health crisis in a compassionate manner,” she said in a statement. It said that the police department “acted with neglect, foolishness and violence that resulted in an unforgivable end to Melissa’s life.”
Lt. Michelle Ramos, of the San Antonio police, did not provide comment when asked for an update on the investigation, but instead sent the raw and narrated versions of the critical incident report videos that had been released.
Three separate investigations of Ms. Perez’s death are being conducted — two by the police department’s internal affairs and homicide divisions, and an independent investigation by the civil rights division of the Bexar County District Attorney’s Office.
The district attorney’s office could not be immediately reached for comment.
Although Mr. McManus said he did not believe any additional officers would be charged, he said that every officer on the scene would be investigated by internal affairs.