Parents Sue After 15-Year-Old Fatally Shot While Brandishing Pellet Gun in School

| by Sarah Fruchtnicht
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Texas police shot and killed an eighth grader who was carrying a pellet gun in the hallway of his Brownsville school in January 2012. Now the parents of 15-year-old Jaimie Gonzalez have filed a federal lawsuit against the city of Brownsville and five police officers and claimed they used excessive, unjustified force and violated their son’s civil rights.

The school’s assistant principal, Ms. Brito, notified police on Jan. 4, 2012, that Gonzalez was carrying a gun in school. She said he was pointing it at the front door and that she put the school on lock down.

In a 911 recording of the incident, the police can be heard repeatedly telling Gonzalez to drop the gun, according to The Monitor. The suit says Jaimie was shot three times by police.

His father, Jaimie Gonzalez Sr., said he has no idea where his son got the gun, but he believes the force was unjustified.

"Why was so much excess force used on a minor?" he told the Associated Press in January. "Three shots. Why not one that would bring him down?"

Another question that still has not been answered is why Jaimie Gonzalez brought a gun to school in the first place.

"Defendants arrived at the school and immediately started shooting at the door behind which Jaimie was standing,” the claim says. “Jaimie had not fired the gun, nor had he tried to shoot anyone. The defendants did not try to calm the situation down and talk to Jaimie, who was only 15 years old; they came in guns blazing and simply shot Jaimie, killing him.”

Police said they did not realize the teen was carrying a "fake" rifle, which many claim is not a “real gun.” In the suit the parents said their son wielded "just a pellet a gun." However, pellet guns have been known to kill.

In April, the death of a man who was shot in the chest with a pellet gun was ruled a homicide in Lynwood, Wash. In 2012, a 6-year-old girl in Peachtree, Ga., was killed when her brother shot her in the throat with a pellet gun.

His parents claim their son was "alone in the entry area and never posed an immediate threat to the safety of the individual defendants or anyone else.” But police reports contradict their story.

Sgt. Albert De La Rosa claims when they first saw Gonzalez in the school hallway behind a locked door, he appeared to have a handgun in his waistband. They shot at the door and Gonzalez then ran down the hallway. He said they demanded Gonzalez drop the gun, but he did not comply or respond. At some point, the teen aimed the gun at himself, De La Rosa said.

When Gonzalez turned to another student, De La Rosa gave the order to “take him out” and officers Raul Cazares and Everardo Longoria each fired one shot at the teen. No charges have been brought against the officers.

The family says the Cazares and Everardo should not have immunity because they are police.

"In the instant case, plaintiffs allege that the individual defendants are not entitled to claim 'qualified good faith immunity,': the complaint states. "Importantly, the individual defendants never had a good faith belief in their conduct because they acted in a manner demonstrating that they were plainly incompetent and knowingly violated Jaimie's civil rights."

The Gonzalezes seek funeral expenses and punitive damages for civil rights violations and assault.

The claim seeks damages for civil rights violation and assault, as well as funeral expenses.

Sources: The Monitor, Courthouse News Service, USA Today