Cause of death ‘unknown’ for man who died in Alton police custody

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This photo shows Jesus “Jesse” Garcia prior to being arrested by Alton police on Sunday, Aug. 27, 2023. He died in police custody on Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2023. (Courtesy of Carlos A. Garcia)

The man who died in Alton police custody threw a walking cane at an officer before taking a baton from him, kicking the officer and then throwing the baton back at him, according to a custodial death report.

That document said that Jesus “Jesse” Garcia, 40, began banging his head inside a police unit once he was arrested.

Jesus Garcia died on Aug. 29 after Alton police responded to the 400 block of South Kentucky Street two days earlier in reference to a property damage report. A chase and struggle then ensued.

Alton police released scant information about Jesus “Jesse” Garcia’s death or the events leading up to it.

And attorney Carlos A. Garcia, who was representing Jesus Garcia on charges of driving while intoxicated and possession of a controlled substance, held a press conference after the man’s death where he said Alton police arrested his client for reasons they would not disclose to the lawyer.

“I defended Jesse in his life and I will be defending him in his death,” Carlos A. Garcia said at the time.

Carlos A. Garcia showed photos of Jesus Garcia being intubated at the press conference. Those also showed he had various head injuries and multiple scrapes on his shoulders and upper body.

The custodial death report said that police responded because a garage door and wooden fence had been damaged and that a black Chevrolet Trailblazer was in the front yard, which Jesus Garcia entered.

Jesus Garcia was only wearing an orange cloth wrapped around his waist and “appeared to be excited and hyperactive.”

The report said officer Daniel Padron commanded Jesus Garcia to exit the vehicle, but that he instead drove away into a backyard and struck the rear section of a fence before taking off on a dirt road at a high rate of speed through several streets, hitting Bazbar Road in Mission.

“The roadway ends, and decedent drove onto a canal bank traveling in a Southeast direction,” the report stated. “Officer Padron then lost visual of the decedent’s vehicle due to a large amount of dust in the air.”

This photo shows a vehicle driven by Jesus “Jesse” Garcia during a brief pursuit with Alton police on Sunday, Aug. 27, 2023. He died in police custody on Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2023. (Courtesy of Carlos A. Garcia)

Padron searched for Jesus Garcia on foot and shortly afterward heard yelling coming from a residence in the 4800 block of Brian Avenue.

“Officer Padron proceeded to the residence and observed the decedent running around on the property,” the report stated.

That document then said that on Aug. 28, the day after Jesus Garcia’s arrest, police discovered that his vehicle had struck a tree located along the canal bank and then “drove into the property before abandoning the vehicle.”

When Padron spotted Jesus Garcia on Aug. 27, he yelled at him to show his hands and to lay on the ground.

Jesus Garcia, who had a silver cane, did not comply and walked away. The officer used a BolaWrap device, which shoots a cord that wraps around a person’s knees, on the man, but it “was unsuccessful.”

“The decedent then threw the cane at Officer Padron,” the report stated. “The decedent continued to walk away and then ran from Officer Padron.”

Then a foot pursuit began and Jesus Garcia tripped and fell to the ground, according to the report.

At this time, Padron had his baton out and tried to hit Jesus Garcia, but missed. Jesus Garcia then lost his footing and fell to the ground.

“The decedent stood up and lunged at Officer Padron,” the report stated. “Officer Padron pushed decedent away.”

Jesus Garcia ran away before lunging at the officer again, according to the report, which said that Padron used pepper spray on him while continuing to tell him to get on the ground.

Attorney Carlos A. Garcia points to photos as he holds a press conference over his concerns about the death of Jesus “Jesse” Garcia in Alton police custody on Friday, Sept. 1, 2023, in Mission. (Joel Martinez | [email protected])

Jesus Garcia then went on the private property and tried to walk away as the officer took him into custody.

“Officer Padron attempted to strike the decedent with his baton. The decedent took Officer Padron’s baton and kicked at him,” the report stated. “Officer Padron then drew his weapon and pointed it at the decedent. The decedent then threw the baton at Officer Padron. The decedent then threw the baton at Officer Padron.”

At the front of the residence, Padron pushed Jesus Garcia to the ground “using his baton” and tried to take him into custody when a “short struggle ensued” before he was placed in handcuffs.

Officer Damian Leo arrived and the two officers held Jesus Garcia on the ground “to get him to stop moving and get him to calm down.”

That’s when they requested a restraint device while waiting for assistance as Jesus Garcia continued to resist, according to the report, which further stated that a Hidalgo County sheriff’s deputy arrive and assisted in holding him to the ground as Mission police, Palmhurst officers and Texas Department of Public Safety troopers arrived on scene.

“The decedent continued to resist and was drive stunned by the sheriff deputy with his electronic control device,” the report stated.

“Drive stunned” means the deputy used a stun gun.

The report said the struggle continued and the officers placed leg shackles on Jesus Garcia and requested EMS.

“At one point the decedent managed to kick officer (Carlos) Fuentes in the face,” the report stated. “Officers had to hold decedent down and it was decided to restraining the shackles to handcuffs using a second pair of handcuffs.”

Police then placed Jesus Garcia into the restraint device, which is when Jesus Garcia bit Fuentes on the right knee, according to the report.

(Metro Photo)

“The decedent was then placed into a police unit,” the report stated. “Once in the unit the decedent began banging his head in the unit and struggling in the unit.”

Leo transported Jesus Garcia and radioed that he was hitting his head in the unit.

“The decedent received facial injuries from banging his head,” the report stated.

Sgt. Karen Briceno told Leo to stand by at the location until she arrived.

“During this time the decedent calmed down and it was believed he fell asleep,” the report stated.

The officers put gauze on his injuries and waited for EMS, which was still several minutes away so Briceno told Leo to transport Jesus Garcia to the hospital.

“Officer Leo transported the decedent to Mission Freestanding ER located in Mission, Texas,” the report stated. “After several hours it was decided by medical personnel to transfer the decedent to McAllen Medical Center ICU, located in McAllen, Texas.”

The report lists his means of death as unknown and said “cause of death was accidental injury, intoxication, suicide or homicide.”

The medical cause of death is pending the autopsy and the report indicates that police believe Jesus Garcia was intoxicated.

The report said the reason for contact was criminal mischief and that if Jesus Garcia had not died he would have been charged with two counts of assaulting a police officer and a count of evading arrest.

Carlos A. Garcia, Jesus Garcia’s attorney, said this all began at around 6 p.m. that day and that his client’s family attempted to film but police told them they would be arrested if they did.

Jesus Garcia’s wife and his four sons were at the scene and listened to him “wailing,” Carlos A. Garcia said.

The attorney also described the pursuit as short.

He also questioned Jesus Garcia’s head injuries, saying at the time the vehicle crash wouldn’t have caused those types of injuries.

Alton police are attributing those injuries to Jesus Garcia “banging” his head while restrained in two pairs of handcuffs, leg restraints and another restraint device called a Wrap Restraint inside a police unit.

This restraining device covers the legs and wraps them together and attaches to the neck with a strap.

It is a harness-type component that is placed around the neck and is then attached with a strap to a lock that’s located below the knees.

Carlos A. Garcia said he wants to know what steps were taken to help Jesus Garcia during his “crisis” and questioned why the department wouldn’t release body cam footage of the incident.

He also said Jesus Garcia doesn’t have a history of violence.

Following the attorney’s news conference, Alton police Chief Mark Perez, who filed the custodial death report with the Texas Attorney General’s Office, provided a statement to The Monitor.

“We requested an independent review from the Texas Rangers to be transparent,” Perez said. “It’s unfortunate that something like this happened. (The Texas Rangers) have all our evidence, dash cam, body cam and stuff like that. For the integrity of the case, we have to refer everything to the Ranger’s office.”


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