Texas executes San Antonio man for killing cop
A man who fatally shot a police officer with the officer’s own gun more than 14 years ago was executed Wednesday, the sixth convicted murderer put to death in Texas so far this year.
Manuel Garza Jr. received a lethal injection of pentobarbital for killing Police Officer John “Rocky” Riojas in February 2001. The U.S. Supreme Court had refused in November to review his case, and no last-day appeals were filed before his execution.
Asked to make a final statement, Garza said he was sorry for causing pain to his family, friends and “especially police officers.”
“Y’all probably hate me,” he said, looking at three friends of his victim, dressed in their navy blue San Antonio police uniforms. He wished them “peace and love and hope y’all find God like I have and I’ll see you on the other side.”
As the lethal drug began taking effect, Garza uttered: “Here it comes!” His voice rose as he said “Good bye,” and then he let out a howl that was cut short within seconds as he took three deep breaths, then a couple shallow ones. He was pronounced dead 26 minutes later at 6: 40 p. m.
Garza, 35, already had a long criminal record at age 20 when he was stopped by Riojas. Garza ran off and witnesses say that when Riojas caught up with him, the two struggled and Garza grabbed the officer’s gun.
Riojas, 37, was fatally shot in the head.
Garza was apprehended a day later at his sister’s apartment after an informant told detectives that someone had tried to sell him the officer’s missing semi-automatic service weapon.
The San Antonio Police Officers Association provided two buses for officers to make the 200- mile ( 320- kilometer) trip to Huntsville and be present outside the prison as the execution took place.
We want them to see we do care and the salute is a form of respect,” said Mike Helle, president of the association.
But Helle, who was in the same police academy training class with Riojas, said the execution “doesn’t bring back my classmate and my friend.”
Defense attorneys said the shooting was accidental and Garza was a product of childhood neglect and abuse. In a 2013 failed appeal, attorney Michael Gross said Garza’s family encouraged him to break the law.