Attorneys argue whether officer involved in 2013 shooting is 'immune' from trial

Published: Apr. 8, 2015 at 9:49 PM CDT|Updated: Apr. 8, 2015 at 10:35 PM CDT
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(Source: WVUE)
(Source: WVUE)
(Source: KLTV)
(Source: KLTV)

Attorneys argued Tuesday whether a Tyler police officer should be tried in a civil court for the shooting death of Victor Fuentes. He was shot and killed by Tyler police officer Matt Riggle on January 1, 2013.

Riggle responded to the area for a 'shots fired' call when Fuentes ran into his residence. When confronted by police after his door was left open to the home, police say Fuentes pointed the gun at Riggle and the officer fired, killing Fuentes.

Fuentes' family has said they believed the police used excessive force in dealing with Fuentes.

"He was a good kid, he was a family man," Cristina Fuentes said in a 2013 interview.

The Fuentes family filed a lawsuit against the Tyler Police Department, Chief Gary Swindle and Officer Matt Riggle. The chief and department were dropped from the lawsuit in 2014. But Officer Riggle remains on the lawsuit, and is appealing the East Texas court's decision to deny Riggle's claim he has qualified immunity to avoid a jury trial.

Riggle's attorney argued before the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to look at whether the testimony of Victor Fuentes' father should be considered.

"And he said in that statement seven times, 'I do not know if my son, Victor, was holding a gun." said Keith Dollahite, attorney for Officer Riggle. "So our position is you can't, under penalty of law in your recorded interview, make the statement 'I don't know' and then later contradict that."

The family's attorney said the father would have been the only one other than Officer Riggle to have seen if Victor was armed.

"He was in a position to be able to see and he has certainly testified as to what he saw," Bill Hommel, attorney for the Fuentes family, said.

The family told us to shortly after the shooting Victor Fuentes did have a gun, but it was not loaded.

"The gun didn't even have any bullets in it the gun had no bullets in it at all victor would've never shot a cop -- never," Cristina Fuentes said.

The Tyler Police Department did not implement the use of body cameras until 2014, so the only two people to know exactly what happened at the Fuentes home, was Officer Riggle and Victor's father.

The court only heard arguments from both sides Tuesday. They could take weeks or up to months to make a decision on whether the civil trial should move forward in the Eastern District of Texas.

Tyler police said they completed their internal investigation of Officer Riggle and he has returned to normal work.

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