Family of man shot, killed by El Paso police in 2012 files lawsuit
Updated On: Jul 21 2014 09:50:41 PM CDT
The family of Bernie Morales filed a lawsuit against El Paso Police Officer Albert Gomez for the shooting death of Bernie Morales in 2012.
The lawsuit also names the City of El Paso and 20 of its employees as defendants for conspiring to cover up Morales' death.
Morales' family said the shooting death was not justified because he was never armed.
Bernie Morales was shot and killed by Officer Gomez the morning of June 15, 2012 in the city's lower valley.
The lawsuit said Morales was picking up pecans along a canal that runs parallel to Alameda in the Lower Valley.
Morales allegedly asked permission from property owner Larry Davis to take the pecans from the area, Davis consented.
Davis did call police because a few earlier officer were in the area asking about a man wanted by authorities.
In 2011, Morales was a wanted man by the El Paso Sheriff's Office for leaving a halfway home.
Morales was featured in EPSO's Manhunt Monday that made air on ABC-7 in late 2011.
Investigators said Morales served 10 years for aggravated assault as was released to a halfway home in Horizon City. He reportedly left the facility and never registered as a sex offender.
It is still unclear if it was Morales police were looking for when they went to the area of the shooting days prior.
While Morales was walking along the canal near the 8400 block of Alameda, he was approached by Officer Gomez.
The lawsuit stated Gomez was standing about 20 yards or more from Morales and ordered him to stop. Morales raised his arms and walked toward Gomez.
El Paso Police said Morales pulled out a knife and tried to attack Officer Gomez.
Morales was shot in the chest and died at the scene, the suit stated a knife was never found at the scene. The lawsuit also said a knife was submitted into evidence several days after the shooting.
The lawsuit stated Dr. Juan Contin of the Office of Medical Examiner and Forensic Laboratory for the County of El Paso ruled that the manner of Morales' death was a homicide.
Morales' family hired private investigator, Roy Davis Jr. who spoke with several witnesses that lived near the scene of the shooting. The suit stated at least five of the witnesses said Morales did not have a knife and was not armed.
According to Davis' investigation one witness said Morales fell to the ground, "the officer just stood there and did not assist the man (Morales) in any way."
"It seemed to me that the police officer and man were very far apart and that it wasn't necessary for the man to be killed," the witness said.
The lawsuit does not specify the damages the family is seeking.
The El Paso Police Department and the city attorney's office declined to comment on the lawsuit.
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