Exclusive interview with family of man killed in officer-involved shooting
TYLER, TX (KLTV) -
An East Texas family is questioning a police officer's actions, which led to the shooting death of a family member.
The shooting happened right around midnight on New Year's Eve in the 600 block of E. Queen St. in Tyler.
Victor Fuentes, 22, was killed when police said, he aimed his gun at an officer. The family, however, in an exclusive interview said Fuentes did no such thing.
"He was a good kid, he was family man, a father of three. How do you tell his kids that your dad is gone and he'll never be back" asked Victor's sister, Cristina Fuentes.
This East Texas family is spending New Year's Day mourning the loss of Victor, his death caused by what his family believes to be a misunderstanding starting with the celebration of the new year.
"My brother and my dad as part of our Mexican culture: Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year's Eve and New Year's Day, you shoot a few rounds off just for freedom, for fun. You don't aim at anyone, you shoot at the ground. These five bullet holes on the ground are the bullets they shot," explained Cristina as she pointed to bullet holes in the ground.
Tyler police say they are aware of this tradition and discourage it every year.
"That's something that one, is against the law. It's firing a firearm within the city limits- disorderly conduct. It's very dangerous," said Officer Don Martin with the Tyler Police Department.
Officer Martin said when Victor saw police, he attempted to run inside his home, but Officer Matt Riggle followed him to the door.
"The back door to the residence was open during the verbal confrontation of the officer demanding he drop his gun, again still not dropping it. The weapon was aimed at the officer so, he fired at him. Several rounds were fired and he was killed," Officer Martin said.
However, Victor's father, who said he was in the room at the time, said his son never pointed his gun at Officer Riggle.
"No, that's not true," said Victor's father, Juan Fuentes.
Meanwhile, Victor's family, including his wife and three children, said they sat in the next room over.
"Hector saw him on the ground, saw his dad on the ground. He just kept saying, 'My daddy, my daddy, my daddy'" Cristina said.
Victor's family believes the gun he was carrying was not loaded.
"The gun didn't even have any bullets in it. The gun had no bullets in it at all. Victor would have never shot a cop, never," Cristina explained.
When asked if police could confirm there were no bullets in Victor's gun, they said they could not release that information at this time.
Authorities tell KLTV Officer Riggle has been with the Tyler Police Department since 2008. Authorities said they are following protocol by placing him on paid administrative leave pending further investigation.
Tyler Police said they are investigating possible gang associations with the residence. The Texas Rangers are also assisting in this investigation.
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