Two bounty hunters were killed during a shootout at a Nissan car dealership in Greenville, Texas, on May 30 (video below).
The Nissan dealership owner, Rick Ford, told The Associated Press via email that the bounty hunters inaccurately identified themselves as federal agents.
Stew Peters, a bail investigator with the Minnesota-based U.S. Fugitive Recovery and Extradition, a private company, said the bounty hunters were after Ramon Michael Hutchinson, who failed to appear at a court hearing in Hennepin County, Minnesota.
Peters said he got a phone call from San Antonio-based private investigator Fidel Garcia Jr., who said that he and Gabriel Bernal believed that Hutchinson was at the Nissan dealership.
"Mr. Garcia felt the defendant would ultimately appear at that dealership," Peters told the AP. "Unfortunately Mr. Hutchinson was more prepared for a gunfight."
The bounty hunters reportedly waited over two hours for Hutchinson, who was with a Nissan customer. The bounty hunters approached Hutchinson inside the dealership, and gunfire erupted between all three men in the presence of customers and children.
Hutchinson, Garcia and Bernal all died at the scene; no one else was injured.
The Texas Association of Licensed Investigators President Brad Smith paid tribute to Garcia in a statement, notes WFAA:
We are saddened to hear of the loss of Fidel Garcia, Jr., a 20 + year investigator and a Texas Association of Licensed Investigator's ("TALI") board member. Fidel was a consummate professional and well respected. The Association has reached out to his family and will provide assistance during this hard time. TALI is an association of licensed investigators in the state of Texas.
KDFW noted that Garcia and Bernal, who stood to make $5,000 from capturing Hutchinson, never told the Greenville Police Department about their plans, which put other people's lives in danger.
Viewers weighed in on the controversy on the KDFW Facebook page:
Unnecessary is what it really comes down to. Them bounty hunters are not above the law. If guy wouldn't surrender willfully, call for backup and sit tight. I know they are trying to put bread on their table, but now they're putting flowers on their caskets.
Is anyone else wondering why they didn't attempt to take the guy into custody in the parking lot? You know, away from all those people and with plenty of room?
This was handled irresponsibly. Guns should never have been pulled with so many innocents in possible line of fire. They waited for that guy to arrive for two hours. That was plenty of time to try to plan something less violent. At least to warn people out of the way ahead of time. Thank God no one was hurt that wasn't involved in this. So sad that anyone was killed.