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Civil-rights attorney questions Elizondo's death

A deeper look at the case against DPS Trooper Donald Hinote
Posted at 4:50 PM, Jun 25, 2020

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — There are more questions about what happened the night an off-duty Department of Public Safety trooper shot and killed 17-year-old Ronald "Nano" Elizondo Jr.

Elizondo’s family filed a wrongful death suit Tuesday in district court looking for more than $1 million in damages.

Civil-rights attorney Chris Gale admits he hasn’t seen the whole security-camera video taken July 10, 2019, but said what he has seen troubles him.

“I have some serious concerns, in looking at what I see, to believe that he reasonably believed force, and the type of deadly force, was necessary,” said Chris Gale.

In the suit, Elizondo’s family accused both Trooper Donald Hinote and the DPS of negligence.

Among their complaints: the fact that Elizondo was unarmed; that he was shot four times, when they say non-lethal force would have been sufficient; Hinote never identified himself as law enforcement, and that he did not help Elizondo after shooting him.

“I would expect an officer to ask for assistance in regards to saving their life,” Gale said.

The suit also addresses an incident fewer than two months before the shooting in which Hinote was reprimanded for having his assigned firearm stolen from his unit. That firearm never was recovered, and Hinote received only a one-day suspension as punishment.

DPS responded to a request for comment with a one line statement: “The department does not discuss pending litigation. However, we can confirm that the department has not been served with this lawsuit.”

There’s also the question of what the video, released by Elizondo’s attorney, doesn’t show.

“There’s a whole video before that where it shows Mr. Elizondo in the trooper’s truck,” said Nueces Co. District Attorney Mark Gonzalez. “I think that’s what alerts him; he sees Mr. Elizondo in his own truck.”

While Sec. 9.42 of the Texas Penal Code allows for deadly force to protect property, Gale wonders why Elizondo had to die.

“I would think that maybe some other measure might be adequate to quell the situation," he said. "We are dealing with a misdemeanor crime."

Gonzalez said his office has no plans to re-present this case to a grand jury.