EDINBURG, Texas (ValleyCentral) — Edinburg Police Chief Jaime Ayala described this week’s police-involved shooting as a “classic case of suicide by cop.”
Leroy Villarreal, 36, was fatally shot by Edinburg police officers on Tuesday afternoon after a tense standoff with law enforcement officers on East Rogers Road in Edinburg. When Villarreal got out of the red Silverado pickup he had barricaded himself in for more than an hour, police believed he was armed with a gun, police told ValleyCentral.
Ayala has now confirmed no gun was recovered and that “multiple officers” have been placed on standard administrative leave with pay in connection to the shooting.
During a press conference in Thursday afternoon, Ayala detailed the chain of events that led to the fatal standoff with police.
Around 12 p.m. Tuesday, emergency dispatchers received a call of a red truck driving “recklessly, doing donuts in the field” on the north side of Memorial Middle School. The caller told police the driver “may be intoxicated,” Ayala said.
Police received a second call from Edinburg CISD police in which the caller stated the red truck drove into the field and possibly crashed into school property. A third call from an Edinburg CISD officer stated that the man was now “hiding in the bushes, possibly armed with a gun,” Ayala said.
A fourth call from the school district said the man was “highly intoxicated” and went into a residence north of the school on the 2800 block of E. Rogers Road, Ayala added.
Officials from the Edinburg Consolidated Independent School District told police the man made death threats that “if the police are called, he is ready for them,” Ayala said.
Officers made contact with the owner of the East Rogers Road property who told them his daughter’s boyfriend showed up at the residence intoxicated. Villarreal was told that police were called, to which he replied by saying “he had a surprise for police,” Ayala said.
The property owner then told police that Villarreal owned a gun, but that he wasn’t sure if Villarreal had it with him.
Officers tried to make contact with Villarreal again, who was now inside of a truck parked on the north side of the property. They began to command Villarreal to come out with his hands up.
A police sergeant on scene relayed on the police radio that Villarreal had opened the door, and pointed an unknown object at officers before retreating back into the truck, Ayala said.
Crisis negotiators attempted to speak with Villarreal, but were not successful, the police chief said. Villarreal began driving the red truck again recklessly before returning to the property.
Officers received information from Villarreal’s girlfriend, who was speaking with him over the phone. She told officers that Villarreal did own a gun and that he had told her during the phone conversation that “he was strapped.”
As the standoff neared its conclusion, Villarreal got out of the truck, walked towards officers in “an aggressive manner” with a make-shift shield and an object that appeared to be a weapon, Ayala said.
As he advanced, several shots were fired by Edinburg Police Department officers.
“With the evidence my team has reviewed, I believe this is a classic case of suicide by cop,” Ayala said.
The police chief cited data from the Police Executive Research Forum, indicating that as many as 1,000 fatal officer-involved shootings occurred annually between 2015 and 2018 in the United States. “And by various estimates approximately 10 to 29%, or more officer involved shootings involved suicide by cop incidents,” Ayala said.
Resources have been provided to both the officers as well as the Villarreal family, Ayala said.
“This is not the desired outcome that we were trying to achieve. It has been extremely difficult for our officers and for our staff,” Ayala said. “It has been extremely difficult for our officers, and for our staff. These situations are difficult and traumatic for all parties involved. We ask that you handle this information with the utmost seriousness and sensitivity.
The shooting remains under investigation by the Texas Rangers.