District attorney rules Tulsa police shooting justified
BY ZACK STOYCOFF World Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 16, 2012
5/16/12 at 8:09 AM
Two Tulsa police officers were justified in shooting a woman outside a closed grocery store last month, the District Attorney's Office ruled Tuesday.
Officers Jason Bell and Jennifer Moore shot Maria de Lourdes Vazquez Hernandez, 35, during a confrontation about 1:30 a.m. April 20 in the parking lot of Las Americas Super Mercado, 2413 E. Admiral Place.
Police reports say a passer-by had reported that Hernandez had a gun and that Hernandez told police officers outside the store that she had a gun. She was reaching for her waistband when she was shot, a report says.
Further investigation revealed that Hernandez was unarmed, police said.
The District Attorney's Office said in a statement that the officers were justified because they had reasonable belief that she had a gun.
"The fact that no gun was found is not the determining factor in these types of cases," First Assistant District Attorney Doug Drummond said in the news release.
Bell and Moore were placed on administrative leave while authorities investigated the shooting.
Hernandez, a Mexican citizen who is in the United States illegally, was hospitalized.
She was booked into the Tulsa Jail on May 1.
She was charged the next day with misdemeanor assault on allegations involving David William Bennett, a motorist whom she reportedly encountered near the store minutes before the shooting.
Hernandez was released May 5 into the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and will be prosecuted on the assault charge, Tulsa County Sheriff's Sgt. Shannon Clark said.
Bennett told police that Hernandez was a passenger in a vehicle that swerved toward his in the 100 block of South Lewis Avenue, according to an arrest report.
He reported that he followed the vehicle when it pulled into the store's parking lot, where he said Hernandez threatened him and acted like she was going to pull out a gun, the report says.
The report adds that Bennett called police after the incident and told them that the woman in the car had a gun.
When police officers arrived, they ordered Hernandez and the male driver out of the vehicle, but Hernandez stood up and "made a threatening move," a police spokesman said.
"Our analysis most certainly took into account that police officers must make split-second decisions based on the information they have at the time they use deadly force," Drummond said in the news release.
Hernandez filed a lawsuit April 26 in Tulsa County District Court accusing Bell, Moore and city officials of racial-profiling and claiming that the officers shot her once in the arm and then twice more after she fell down. The suit seeks an unspecified amount of actual damages in excess of $75,000 and additional punitive damages.
Hernandez's attorney, Brendan McHugh of Claremore, said he does not believe that her immigration status will affect the lawsuit.
Original Print Headline: DA rules police shooting justified
Zack Stoycoff 918-581-8486
Maria de Lourdes Vazquez Hernandez: A Mexican citizen, she's in the U.S. illegally. She's in Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody.