In the final moments of his life, Jonathan Santellana probably thought he was being robbed.
Jonathan was sitting in his parked car with his friend Kalee Marsteller when off-duty Navasota police officer Rey Garza rushed up to the driver’s side window with his weapon drawn.
Wearing only basketball shorts and a sweatshirt, Garza looked like someone trying to mug Jonathan. In fact, it was an off-duty cop who thought he’d stumbled on a teenage pot dealer.
To escape the apparently deranged man, Santellana threw his car in reverse and tried to escape. Garza tried to grab the door handle to pull Santallena from the vehicle, but he and his friend began driving away.
That was when Garza, who maintains he was afraid for his own life, fired his gun at the back of Jonathan, hitting him in the back of the head and killing him.
The shooting took place on November 13, 2012, and Jonathan’s family is still seeking justice from the man who took their 17-year-old son’s life.
Santellana’s parents, Joey Santellana and Roxana Harrison, commissioned an expert in crime scene reconstruction to produce a new analysis, since they and their lawyer found the investigation undertaken by law enforcement to be grossly insufficient.
Garza was acting as a “courtesy officer” for the apartment complex when he spotted Santellana holding something in his hands and grew suspicious.
After crossing paths with Santellana, Garza went to his apartment and grabbed his gun. Garza then located Santellana in his car, and claims that he saw Santellana putting a green leafy substance into a prescription bottle.
Texas is one of the least tolerant states regarding cannabis and marijuana, and Garza’s testimony indicates he thought he had stumbled upon some kind of drug deal when he alleged Jonathan was putting marijuana into a prescription bottle.
Garza felt that this behavior was cause for him to accost Santallana.
But the factual and forensic evidence from the scene contradicts Garza’s sworn testimony.
The report from Cam Cope, president of Auto Fire & Safety Consultants of Conroe, shows that Garza’s version of events “is not consistent with any of the factual evidence.”
It is being submitted by Santellana’s family directly to a grand jury for the case to be reconsidered. A grand jury decided not to indict Garza in 2014, believing that he shot Santellana out of fear for his own life.