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.

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