Travis County grand jury declines to indict Austin police officers who fatally shot Alex Gonzales
Travis County District Attorney José Garza announced Tuesday that a grand jury did not return an indictment against two Austin police officers who shot Alex Gonzales Jr. last year. The 27-year-old Hispanic man died at the scene.
The grand jury was considering whether there was evidence to establish probable cause that Austin police officers Gabriel Gutierrez or Luis Serrato committed a crime.
“Ultimately the grand jury returned a 'no bill' or decided that there was not sufficient evidence to charge either person with a crime,” Garza said.
Officers shot Gonzales a little after midnight on Jan. 5, 2021 in South Austin. Gonzales was driving with his girlfriend and their infant, and police say he cut off APD Officer Gutierrez, who was off duty at the time. Gutierrez claimed Gonzales pointed a gun at him. Gutierrez fired multiple shots at the car, wounding both Gonzales and his girlfriend.
Gutierrez, who was driving his personal vehicle and not wearing a uniform, followed Gonzales who eventually pulled over. Gutierrez also called 911.
The responding officers, Luis Serrato and Brian Nenno, then arrived at the scene. Bodycam video the Austin Police Department released in April 2021 shows Gonzales outside of his car. Officers Serrato and Nenno repeatedly ordered Gonzales to step away from his vehicle and show his hands. Serrato then shot and killed Gonzales as he reached into the backseat of his vehicle. Gonzales’ baby was in the backseat. His injured girlfriend was lying on the ground after falling out of the passenger seat. The grand jury did not consider evidence against Nenno.
When a law enforcement officer shoots and kills someone or causes serious bodily harm, Garza said his office will automatically present the case to a grand jury.
“So that our community can decide whether or not there’s evidence that a crime was committed,” he said. “And that’s what we do in every case where a law enforcement officer uses a firearm that results in death or serious bodily injury.”
Garza was elected in November 2020. His platform included a commitment to quickly bring cases involving police violence before a grand jury.
Now that the grand jury has decided not to issue indictments against Gutierrez and Serrato, Garza says: “For the purposes of the Travis County District Attorney’s Office, our inquiry into these matters is closed."
The family of Gonzales, however, is separately suing the City of Austin over the fatal shooting. His parents filed the lawsuit in July. Hendler Flores Law, the firm representing the Gonzales family, claims the city "encouraged racist policing policies and a ‘warrior mindset,’ which ultimately resulted in Gonzales’ death."
The Austin American-Statesman reports the lawsuit challenges Gutierrez's claim that Gonzales pointed a gun at him.
After the grand jury's decision was announced, attorneys representing Serrato released a statement praising the move.
"We look forward to Officer Serrato’s immediate return to duty serving the residents of Austin," said attorneys Ken Ervin and Doug O'Connell.