Seven months after a violent standoff killed an 84-year-old grandmother, her family finally breaks their silence on the deadly encounter.
Law enforcement initially came to the peaceful northwest Bexar County home back in March to make sure Amelia Macias was safe, but according to a Department of Public Safety report, a DPS SWAT team mistakenly ended up killing her in a barrage of gunfire.
Walter Macias says his mother Amelia desperately needed help. He says the frail, wheelchair-bound woman was in danger because her caregiver, her son Fernando Macias, had slipped into paranoia, insisting that the end of the world was near.
“He was getting delusional, thinking there was going to be a breakdown in society and he was going to have to protect my mother from the ensuing chaos, so he was trying to obtain an assault rifle," Macias said.
The family said that Fernando had a long history of mental illness and somehow got a rifle even though he had failed a background check at a local retailer. They said that he refused to let anyone into the family home on Saddle Trail to check on Amelia.
Walter said that when he got a court order to check on his mother, that action ignited a powder keg he could not have predicted.
At the time, Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar said that Fernando shot at deputies who entered the home and threatened to blow up the house by shooting at propane tanks, which were placed around the home.
Walter said that on the day of the siege, the family was satisfied with how the incident was being managed and they were relieved that the sheriff was content to wait his brother out.
"They were going to wait it out until he fell asleep," Walter said.
While the family has high praise for both county and city officers, they said that as the standoff continued through the night and next day and the Department of Public Safety was called in for relief, their hope for a peaceful resolution ended in absolute disaster.
Walter said that DPS personnel were unwilling to wait and "because of excessive use of force, my mother wound up killed."
A DPS report on the incident indicates that Amelia was shot numerous times and died immediately. Fernando survived several gunshot wounds and is now charged with three counts of attempted capital murder of a police officer. He remains in the Bexar County Jail.
Walter said that Fernando rallied after his arrest and his mental health seemed to improve, but over the months he has been in decline and has dropped a significant amount of weight.
“He went in at 300 pounds. He's 160 now. He's lost a lot of weight and I don't believe he's getting the proper care,” Walter said.
While the family waits for Fernando's trial to move forward, they are pushing for changes at Adult Protective Services, the courts who control mental health matters and with the DPS.
“We still love him. It's unfortunate. He's a victim. He should not be behind bars. APS should have stepped in and got my mother out and he wouldn't be behind bars and my mother wouldn't be dead,” Walter said.
For now, Fernando Macias has been found incompetent to stand trial.
He is currently waiting for placement at the North Texas State Hospital, where he can receive treatment for his health issues. If Fernando regains competency, he could face a trial at a later date.
Macias said that the hard lessons his family is learning could help anyone with a family member struggling with mental health issues.
A DPS spokesman was unavailable for comment on Saturday, but at every turn, they have said they will not comment on pending cases.
Here, in its entirety, is a prepared statement by the Macias family by Walter Macias:
“The level of professionalism displayed by the Bexar County Sheriff's Office and SAPD is beyond measure.
Our personal thanks go out to Sheriff Salazar for keeping us informed and showing concern and respect for our family, and coordinating and keeping his team and morale up to a high standard. Also to the professionalism of Sgt. Shawn Tobleman, for keeping us safe and informed and hearing our concerns and needs.
Most DPS Officers are highly qualified individuals, however the level of incompetency displayed by the Texas Rangers SWAT team, either due to lack of training or incompetence or a combination of both is an endangerment to the public at large.
Since APS failed to remove my mother from that situation, the Texas Rangers had an obligation to get her out safely after the standoff began.
Instead, they showed a reckless disregard for my mother's safety and ultimately her life, which was taken on their short-term watch.
Her death by multiple gunshot wounds by law enforcement was a direct result of the use of unreasonable and excessive use of force. It was senseless and a preventable death of an innocent and vulnerable senior member of our society.
There was absolutely no excuse for her to have been killed. The half-baked excuse they used on the custodial report was that she happened to be wearing the same color clothing as my brother, and was mistakenly shot.
Which only adds to the fact that not only are they incompetent but they are also ignorant and incompetent.
When it comes to the properly handling of individuals with mental illness, they apparently do not get the same level of training as the other agencies involved.
San Antonio and Bexar County residents are blessed to have a highly trained and well-qualified SWAT team, members from the Bexar County Sheriff's Office and SAPD.
However if the Texas Rangers have to get involved, may God help you. Thank you.”