Deadly officer-involved shooting appears to be ‘classic case of suicide by cop’, Edinburg police chief says

4 months 21 hours 56 minutes ago Thursday, September 29 2022 Sep 29, 2022 September 29, 2022 2:03 PM September 29, 2022 in News - Local
By: Jay McCully, Jose De Leon III

A man shot and killed by several Edinburg police officers on Tuesday appears to have been a classic case of suicide by cop, police Chief Jaime Ayala said during a press conference Thursday.

Ayala said no weapon was found on Leroy Villarreal, 36, and that the officers involved in Tuesday’s shooting have been placed on paid leave pending an administrative investigation.

Police believed Villarreal to be armed when he advanced toward officers in an “aggressive” manner after barricading himself in a vehicle for over an hour.

Villarreal died in what Ayala called a “classic case of suicide by cop.”

“With the evidence my team has reviewed, I believe this is a classic case of suicide by cop,” Ayala said. “This is not the desired outcome that we were trying to achieve. It has been extremely difficult for our officers, and for our staff. These situations are difficult and traumatic for all parties involved.”

Police received reports that Villarreal was driving recklessly in a field near Memorial Middle School in the area of the 2800 block of East Rogers Road and that he was hiding in the bushes nearby “possibly armed with a gun,” Ayala said.

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“We then received a call from the school district as well reporting that the male subject went into a residence north of the school, was highly intoxicated and made death threats that if the police are called he's ‘ready for them,’” Ayala said.

Officers made contact with the owner of the residence Villarreal went into, who said Villarreal showed up at the residence highly intoxicated, according to Ayala.

“[Villarreal] was told that the police had been called, [Villarreal] stated that he had a surprise for the police,” Ayala said. “The property owner reported to our officers that [Villarreal] does own a gun, but he was not sure whether he had the gun with him at this time.”

Villarreal barricaded himself in his vehicle near the residence for over an hour. Attempts to communicate with Villarreal were not successful, the police chief said.

A police sergeant on the scene said on the police radio that Villarreal briefly opened the door of the vehicle to point an “unknown object believed to be a gun at the officers,” Ayala said.

RELATED: Edinburg police: Man killed in officer-involved shooting

Officers at the scene were informed by Villarreal’s girlfriend that she spoke with Villarreal on the phone while he was barricaded and he said he was “strapped,” which Ayala said was a term that means he had a gun on him.

According to Ayala, Villarreal eventually exited the vehicle and walked toward officers in an “aggressive” manner with a makeshift shield in one hand and an object that appeared to be a weapon in the other hand.

“As the subject was advancing towards a perimeter officer, several shots were fired by a number of police officers stopping the advancing threat,” Ayala said. “There was no weapon found, so I would tell you this is a classic case of suicide by cop in the manner of which he came out aggressively holding what appears to be a shield, an object in his hand that multiple officers on the ground and in the air, believed to be a weapon.”

The Texas Rangers are further investigating the case, Ayala said.

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