Family of Tyler man killed in officer-involved shooting sues city, police

Published: Jun. 7, 2013 at 9:01 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 6, 2013 at 9:41 PM CDT
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TYLER, TX (KLTV) - The family of a man who was shot and killed by an East Texas police officer on New Years Eve, is taking the City of Tyler and the police department to court.

Friday, attorneys for the family of 22-year-old Victor Fuentes filed a wrongful death lawsuit. In the lawsuit, they accuse the city of inadequately training their law enforcement officers and call the officer's use of deadly force, "totally unjustified."

The lawsuit specifically names the City of Tyler, Police Chief Gary Swindle and Officer Matthew Riggle as the parties responsible for Fuentes' death.

On New Years Eve, Tyler police responded to a call of gunshots in Fuentes' neighborhood.

In January, Feuntes' sister told us firing off a gun is a tradition celebrating the new year.

"My brother and my dad as part of our Mexican culture... Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year's Eve and New Year's Day, you shoot a few rounds off just for freedom-- for fun. You don't aim at anyone, you shoot at the ground. These five bullet holes on the ground are the bullets they shot," said Christina Fuentes on January 1.

In January police told us their side of the story.

"The back door to the residence was open during the verbal confrontation of the officer demanding he drop his gun, again, still not dropping it. The weapon was aimed at the officer so, he fired at [Fuentes]. Several rounds were fired and Fuentes was killed," said Tyler Police Officer Don Martin on January 1.

The lawsuit states "Victor Fuentes was in his home and was not armed" at the time of the shooting.  It goes on to say Fuentes posed no threat of serious physical harm to the officer.

"The gun didn't even have any bullets in it. The gun had no bullets in it at all. Victor would have never shoot a cop, never," Cristina said in January.

A expert directly from the lawsuit says, "The City of Tyler, through its customs and practices has instituted and maintained a policy of police brutality and excessive force which was used against Victor Fuentes. The City of Tyler failed to train or discipline its law enforcement officers with respect to the use of deadly force or determining whether a suspect is armed or poses a threat."

The lawsuit goes on to say that, "neither Officer Riggle nor any of the other responding officers provided any medical care to Mr. Fuentes after the shooting."

The Fuentes family is seeking compensation for severe emotional distress, funeral expenses and court costs. In April, a grand jury decided Officer Fuentes was justified in using deadly force. Officer Riggle remained on administrative duty for months during an internal investigation with Tyler Police. Friday, the police department told us that investigation was complete and Riggle has been cleared any of wrong-doing.

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