Police officer on admin duties after controversial shooting
FIVE years ago, Michael Garza was celebrating his 10th year as a police officer in San Antonio, the second largest city in Texas.
The officer, 33, had already built an illustrious career during his decade on the force, dubbed a "natural" by his superiors. He was a two-time winner of the city's Officer of the Year award.
Garza was especially good at undercover work, highly regarded as an officer who could infiltrate gangs and crime syndicates other undercover agents couldn't get near.
It was all going so well.
But, on the night of July 26 in 2012, that shining career came to a crashing halt when he received a text message from a woman he'd been seeing.
He asked her when she needed to be collected.
"Tonight. Drop me off around 10:15. Then pick me up around 1:30 …& have sex after :)" the woman, Abigail Hernandez, replied.
He dropped her at San Antonio's Thirsty Horse Saloon, sending her another text, one of the 40 messages they exchanged that night.
"U looked pretty," he wrote. "Can't wait to c u later. Have fun."
Then, at around 1.30am, Hernandez asked to be picked up.
"OK ma. I got half a crown n seven. Guna chug. B der in bout 13 mins and 27 seconds," Garza wrote to her when she asked to be picked up, later telling investigators in his deposition the text about chugging Crown Whiskey was a joke.
Garza wasn't the only one texting the young mother that night. At the same time, the father of her 20-month-old son, Alfred Aragon, fired off increasingly-frantic messages.
"Why can't you give me five minutes of your time?" he wrote.
"Are you talking to someone else?"
"Please tell me?"
"Please stop ignoring me!!!!"
Hernandez replied, telling him to leave her alone.
Garza arrived at the bar, picking up Hernandez in his police car, an unmarked black Dodge pick-up truck.
When Garza pulled into the carpark of Hernandez's apartment complex, she immediately noticed her ex-boyfriend's car. He was waiting for her.
One of Aragon's daughters, an 11-year-old, would later tell police she had seen her father grab a gun before he told her to go to sleep.
Aragon approached the truck Hernandez and Garza were travelling in, trying to open the passenger door. Garza sped off but eventually the couple headed back to Hernandez's apartment.
Aragon called and Hernandez decided to put him on speaker. After threatening to kill himself, he again approached the passenger window, this time pointing his gun inside.
As Garza rushed away in reverse, he remembered Aragon's chilling words over the phone's speaker.
"Everybody's going to die tonight."
Aragon fired nearly a dozen shots into Garza's vehicle, hitting Hernandez twice.
The two men then became engaged in a car chase, the police officer pursuing Aragon.
Hernandez screamed at Garza, telling him that her son was at Aragon's house, which was where he appeared to be heading.
"And I remember telling him, 'Yes, but we need to get those kids because he's crazy. He's going to kill himself. He's going to kill everybody, Mike.' And that's when we turned back around and we proceeded to go to Alfred's house."
Garza denied pursuing Aragon but security cameras disproved this statement.
Aragon parked in his driveway, running towards the house where his three daughters and baby son were sleeping.
Garza screamed, "Police officer! Get on the ground!" later telling investigators he saw Aragon hunching near the door as if reloading.
When Aragon turned towards Garza, the police officer fired. Police would later find nine shell casings, three of which hit Aragon and killed him.
Police would also find Aragon's house keys sitting in his front door, most likely the reason he was hunched over. What they wouldn't find was the 9mm handgun Aragon had used to fire 12 shots into Garza's car.
BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE
The shooting between Garza and Aragon was the third shooting the police officer had been involved in while on the job.
Immediately after the incident, Garza was placed on indefinite suspension by the city's police chief William McManus.
That suspension, which is tantamount to a termination, was later reversed by an arbitrator.
The arbitrator ruled Garza should instead receive a 15-day suspension and then be returned to duty.
"The actions of this officer were not reflective of the great work our 2200 officers do on a daily basis. I'm embarrassed and dismayed that an arbitrator would give Michael Garza his job back. He will not be returning to any position where he interacts with the public," said Deputy Chief Anthony Trevino.
San Antonio's City Manager Sheryl Sculley mirrored the words of Deputy Trevino, telling KSAT Newsin 2015 she was "appalled".
"I am appalled that an arbitrator has given Michael Garza, who was fired by Chief McManus in 2012, his job back. Officer Garza was drinking while on duty, was not truthful and did not follow departmental rules the evening he shot and killed someone," she said.
In a statement to the Washington Post, Chief McManus said the overturning of a police chief's decision "undermines the chief's authority, erodes the public's trust in law enforcement and is disruptive to the good order of the department".
Despite Garza not being fired for the shooting, his burgeoning career in the force - including potentially being made a detective - have gone up in smoke.
Garza now spends his days at the city's headquarters, out of uniform and filing paperwork.
"They're basically taking paperclips off paper, filing paperwork or making copies for somebody," police union president Mike Helle told the publication.
"He might as well be a clerk. You took a good cop that made a lot of good cases and you just put him on a bookshelf. Are you really even a cop anymore at that point?"
And despite Garza's shooting of Aragon eventually deemed justifiable after a four-month police investigation, it's the other violations from that night that landed Garza in the "rubber gun squad".
The family of Aragon, including his niece Ashley Garcia, 26, fought hard for Garza to lose his job. They eventually dropped their legal claim against the police officer this year, considering Aragon was the first to fire gunshots.
Despite that, Garcia said they will always struggle with the fact that Garza is still a police officer.
"If you can get away with all that, what else can you get away with?" she said. "What else can any other cop get away with?"