An hours-long hostage standoff in San Antonio ended with police critically wounding an armed suspect early Tuesday morning and apparently killing a mother of three with errant gunfire, authorities announced Wednesday.
“This is an extremely tragic event for all involved, and I give my deepest condolences to the children and family of the deceased victim,” San Antonio Police Chief William McManus said during a press conference.
McManus identified the victim as 29-year-old Neida Tijerina.
“Officers discovered that Ms. Tijerina had died from a gunshot wound," he said. "The Bexar County Medical Examiner performed an autopsy this morning. While they cannot yet conclusively state that Neida died as a result of the officers firing on the suspect, the physical evidence appears to support that conclusion.”
A spokesman with the medical examiner's office said Thursday that Tijerina's cause of death is "ballistic injury of chest" and her manner of death is "homicide."
McManus said police responded to an apartment complex at about 9 p.m. on Monday “for a suicidal male threatening to kill his common law wife” who was with her three young children.
When they arrived on scene, McManus said police learned it was a hostage situation. The suspect, Angel Sanchez, 28, was armed with a shotgun and wearing body armor. Sanchez had a history of domestic violence and “indicated to family that he was going to kill Ms. Tijerina and then kill himself,” McManus said.
Police then called for additional units, including SWAT and a hostage negotiator. Officers established a perimeter and evacuated nearby residents, McManus said. Sanchez then exited the apartment and pointed a shotgun at officers.
“Sanchez was heard taunting officers trying to get them into a confrontation,” McManus said, and attempts to de-escalate with him were unsuccessful.
Tijerina exited the apartment but would not go with police because “her children were still inside and she did not want to leave them alone,” McManus said.
Sanchez then stepped out of the apartment a second time, holding an infant, but then went back inside.
That’s when three officers got on a roof of a nearby apartment building, McManus said. Sanchez then exited a final time and pointed the shotgun at officers on the ground, police said.
“The three officers who were providing cover from the roof opened fire on Sanchez, striking him. Sanchez dropped his shotgun and officers approached to take him into custody.”
That’s when officers discovered Tijerina dead inside the apartment, McManus said.
“I want to assure Neida’s family and the community that this incident will be investigated in its entirety," McManus said, but added that body camera video of the incident will not be released because it involved domestic violence.
Tijerina’s three children ranged in ages from 3 months to 15-years-old and were unharmed, police said. Sanchez is described as the father of the baby.
Sanchez, who was critically wounded, is charged with three counts of aggravated assault of a public servant.
NBC affiliate WOAI in San Antonio spoke with Tijerina's sister, Jasmine.
She told the news outlet she was struggling to process what happened.
"Everything's just ... it's a lot of emotions," she said. "It's just hard for me right now."
David Thomas, a professor of forensics studies at Florida Gulf Coast University, worked as a police officer for 20 years in Michigan and Florida, doing duty in SWAT and as a negotiator.
Domestic violence calls are generally considered among the most dangerous for police, Thomas said, and there are many factors that could have led to Tijerina's death.
"It's a nightmare scenario," Thomas said.
He said that even if all three officers who fired at Sanchez had hit him, a bullet could have gone through his body and struck Tijerina.
Thomas said using a weapon while on duty can be taxing psychologically, but accidentally shooting someone is a "worst-case scenario" for an officer.
"He or she feels absolutely responsible for that loss of life," Thomas said. "They carry that burden with them."