Dallas police lost one of their own Wednesday, a day after a routine shoplifting call ended in bloodshed at a Lake Highlands Home Depot — another blow to a force that’s had more than its share of late.
Officer Rogelio Santander died at 8:11 a.m. Wednesday at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas.
The 27-year-old is the ninth North Texas officer to be killed in the line of duty in about two years.
The wounded officer is Crystal Almeida, 26. The third victim was identified as Scott Painter, a Home Depot loss-prevention officer.
Almeida and Painter were still in critical condition on Wednesday, but they were making “remarkable recoveries,” Dallas Police Chief U. Renee Hall said at a news conference Wednesday morning.
Hall thanked the community for its support and asked for continued prayers.
The suspect, 29-year-old Armando Luis Juarez, was arrested Tuesday night after a police chase that ended in a neighborhood near Love Field. He was initially arrested on one charge of aggravated assault against a public servant and another against the civilian.
A capital murder charge was added Wednesday morning after Santander’s death.
The district attorney’s office has assigned a team of attorneys to prosecute Juarez in “pursuit of justice,” District Attorney Faith Johnson said in a written statement.
Authorities are still investigating how Juarez was able to shoot the two officers and a security guard in what otherwise would have been a run-of-the-mill arrest.
Painter, 26, was working as a loss-prevention officer at Home Depot near U.S. Highway 75 and Forest Lane on Tuesday when he saw Juarez behaving suspiciously and possibly trying to steal something from the store, an arrest warrant affidavit said.
A Dallas officer working an off-duty job at the store detained Juarez and found that he had an outstanding felony warrant. The five-year veteran called on-duty Dallas officers — Almeida and Santander — to the store to confirm that Juarez was a wanted man.
The off-duty officer went to Santander’s squad car to look at the warrant and confirm that it was the same man.
As officers tried to arrest Juarez, he removed his hands from his pockets, drew a handgun and shot the officers before fleeing, his affidavit says. The confrontation was captured on body camera footage.
As the off-duty officer was returning to the loss prevention office, he heard “shots fired” over the police radio and saw Almeida, Santander and Painter on the ground with gunshot wounds.
Painter’s relatives said the Washington state native, who married “the love of his life” in October, was shot twice.
Almeida’s colleagues said she remains in critical condition but is expected to recover. Dallas Police Association president Michael Mata described the officer as a “hard-charger.”
“She’s talented,” he said. “She’s making great gains.”
Santander and Almeida joined the force on the same day three years ago and had been in the same academy class, city records show. Both worked in the department’s Northeast Division.
The shooting comes less than two years after officers were ambushed after a downtown Dallas protest on July, 7, 2016. Five officers, including four from the Dallas Police Department, were killed and nine other officers were injured.
“We have the entire department still grieving,” said George Aranda, president of the Dallas chapter of the National Latino Law Enforcement Organization. “We have to do this all over again for one of our brothers in blue for such a senseless act.”
Hospital staff and police joining hands for a prayer. pic.twitter.com/AeZ5v3hnDE
— Dana Branham (@danabranham) April 25, 2018
Aranda’s organization is raising money for the officers through the Blue Guardian Foundation, and is paying for Santander’s family’s hotel stays.
A 2009 graduate of Skyline High School, Santander went on to enroll at Texas A&M University-Commerce and graduated in 2014.
“Rogelio chose to major in Criminal Justice and was engaged in helping maintain a safe life for us all,” President Ray Keck said in a written statement.
‘Never just routine’
The incident at Home Depot started out as a routine shoplifting call and ended as anything but.
Unlike other recent North Texas police shootings, no one was lying in wait to ambush the responding officers.
Juarez’s record does not show any violent offenses.
He has pleaded guilty in the past to attempted possession of a controlled substance. He had been arrested twice in the past five months: on a felony theft charge in December and on an unlawful use of a motor vehicle charge in January.
He was released on bond in January, but a judge increased his bail in February, records show.
Police haven’t said what charges he was wanted for when police encountered him at Home Depot on Tuesday.
“They were doing everything they could do to take this guy into custody, and something went wrong,” said Michael Walton, president of the Dallas Fraternal Order of Police. “Going to calls is a thing that is never just routine.”
Almeida comes from a family of law enforcement officers, Aranda said, and they all know their jobs can be dangerous.
“We provide the best training for our officers. We always prepare our officers to take action when needed,” he said. “This is what we considered a routine call, but nowadays you can’t take anything for granted.”
Painter’s uncle, Jon Painter, said the security guard had a close call before while working at a Target.
“A suspect pulled a gun on him and his partner,” he said. “So he knew this could happen. But [he] loved to do what he was doing.”
The Dallas Police Association president said Painter “took bullets that maybe would have been pointed in the direction of our officers.”
Suspect’s family reacts
Juarez’s father, Ruben Juarez, said Tuesday night that he couldn’t believe his son was responsible for gunning down three people.
“There’s no way my son could’ve done this,” he said, adding that he doesn’t think his son owned a gun.
However, he said police had gone to Juarez’s mother’s house to look for his son and showed her video of him shooting officers in the face.
Juarez’s grandmother, Janie Longoria, said that when police came looking for her grandson, they told her he’d been caught stealing at a Home Depot and someone had been hurt.
“He’s a very sweet, sweet, lovable person,” she said. “He doesn’t carry a gun. He doesn’t have a gun.”
Shootings on rise
While they’ve always been the first line of defense, police in North Texas have increasingly been in the line of fire in recent years.
A Richardson police officer was shot and killed after responding to a disturbance call in February. Officer David Sherrard was the first officer killed in the line of duty in the department’s history, and the first on-duty officer to be killed in Texas this year.
Last year, a barricaded gunman in Little Elm unleashed a “hail of gunfire” on Detective Jerry Walker and fellow SWAT officers. Walker was the first Little Elm officer to die in the line of duty.
In spring 2016, Euless Officer David Hofer was fatally ambushed while responding to a report of a gunman at a park.
That same month, Fort Worth Officer Matt Pearce was shot seven times while pursuing two robbery suspects. He survived his injuries and eventually returned to duty.
Months later, a gunman opened fire on officers protecting protesters in downtown Dallas, killing five and punctuating an especially deadly year.
On Wednesday morning, Addie Beth Denton walked up to a police spokesman after the news conference outside Presbyterian hospital. Crying, the 72-year-old former mental health professional pushed a box of cookies into his hands and hugged him.
“We just have no idea the depth of pain they’re going through,” she said. “So I just thought, this is what I’ll do.”
Staff writers Dana Branham, Claire Cardona, Claire Ballor, Loyd Brumfield, Tristan Hallman, Marc Ramirez, Corbett Smith, Tom Steele and Robert Wilonsky contributed to this report.