On Monday police officers in Laredo, Texas responded to a call from a man saying he was going to kill himself. Arriving at the scene, 25-year-old Cesar Cuellar was holding a gun.
Cuellar’s mother, who says she and her son had planned to go to breakfast that morning, told the local KGNS News what happened:
She says she arrived at his apartment and found two Laredo Police Department officers pointing their guns at him.
‘Both of them were pointing at him. My son was like this with the gun pointed down, not saying a word. He was surprised, he was frozen. He didn’t say a word. They had scared him,’ said the mother.
She pleaded with the officers not to shoot, screaming, “Don’t shoot, don’t shoot, don’t shoot! Please, please, please! It’s my son!”
But moments later the officers shot her son dead. He never once lifted his gun, she says.
“They shot him. They shot him once and then it took a while and after another boom again. It wasn’t continuous but my son never lifted his gun. Never.”
At this point, as far as most of those involved knew, this was merely another case of suicide by cop — and yet another Latino gunned, at that.
But here’s were the story takes an unusual twist.
It turns Cesar was not just some Latino, but a Webb County sheriff’s deputy. In an instant, Cesar’s death went from being routine to a tragedy, with Laredo police chief issuing this statement:
The Laredo Police Department respectfully sends the family, friends and colleagues of Mr. Cesar Cuellar Jr it’s most sincerest condolences. The Laredo Police Department is committed to conducting a thorough investigation into this case.
The Texas Rangers will also be conducting an independent investigation into this case to further ensure that all facts and evidentiary findings of this tragedy will be collected in the most thorough and transparent manner possible.
Carlos Miller, founder and publisher of Photography Is Not a Crime, points to a post on the Facebook page of a group called Humanizing the Badge, in which a female officer describes her emotional about-face when she learned that the life lost was that of a cop.
She read the headline, saw a man was killed and instantly wrote it off as another ‘suicide by cop’ and was content that the cops involved were able to go home to their families after killing him. All in a day’s work as they say.
But then her attitude did a complete 180 when she learned it was a cop who was killed.
Suddenly, he became a ‘young, off-duty sheriff’s deputy’ with a family and he was in need of some serious help.
And maybe he was. And perhaps he should not have been killed. And yes, I do agree with Steph that we must eliminate the stigma of mental health issues.
But how can we do that if the only time cops care to address this issue is if it involves one of their own?
For her part, Cesar’s mom says she wants justice for her son.
“I want them removed [from their positions]. They shouldn’t have a gun or a badge.”
Cesar Cuellar will be laid to rest in Zapata, Texas.