TEMPLE, TX — A Texas police officer who fatally shot an unarmed man in the head in December opened fire while the pair had “an altercation of some sort,” according to a report filed in compliance with a law meant to provide more transparency in police shootings.
Temple officer Carmen DeCruz tried to pull Michael Dean over for speeding on the night of Dec. 2, but the 28-year-old did not stop and “a short pursuit ensued,” states the report city police filed with the Texas Attorney General’s Office.
Dean eventually pulled over and DeCruz, 52, approached his PT Cruiser. Then “there was an altercation of some sort between” the men, the report states, and during it the officer’s “service weapon discharged” striking Dean.
The report does not describe the “altercation” further. It’s “unknown” whether Dean attempted to injure the officer or others, according to the report, but the most serious offense he would have been charged is “evading in a vehicle.”
Despite the questions it leaves open, the seven-page document offers some of the only available details on what led up to Dean’s death two months ago. Police in Temple, a city of 76,000 people about 70 miles (112 kilometers) northeast of Austin, have said little about the shooting and consistently referred questions to the Texas Rangers, who are leading the investigation.
Dallas attorney Lee Merritt, who is representing Dean’s family, suggested that Dean was looking for a safe place to pull over, not evading the officer, and called the report “disingenuous.”
“When it gets down to the critical juncture they leave out all the important detail, which leaves Mr. DeCruz a great deal of latitude to change his story at some later date,” said Merritt. “This seems to be an attempt to try to justify what is clearly unjustifiable.”
A spokesman for the Rangers said their investigation is “nearing completion,” but that he could not elaborate on the “altercation.”
“I have not read that part of the investigation nor do I intend to,” Sgt. Bryan Washko said in an email. “I am not part of the investigation.”
The Temple Police Department responded to the reports saying, "At this time, we have no new information or updates to the reports that have been filed."
Dean was killed by a gunshot wound to the head and his death was a homicide, according to the police report. It states that after the shooting DeCruz “initiated life-saving measures to no avail” and Dean died at the scene.
DeCruz was placed on paid administrative leave after the shooting. It was not immediately clear when the report on Dean’s death became public. It bears that same date, Dec. 30, as a less detailed, three-page report on the shooting that was earlier published on the attorney general’s website. Temple police had said the initial report could be revised.
Since 2015, Texas law enforcement agencies have been legally required to send the attorney general’s office reports on any shooting in which an officer was hit or shot someone within 30 days.
A spokesman for Temple police and a spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office did not immediately respond to questions.