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Jury awards more than $10 million to family of Gilbert Flores, who was fatally shot by deputies

By Andy Rose and Rebekah Riess, CNN

Jurors in a federal civil trial awarded $10.37 million to the family of Gilbert Flores, who was shot and killed outside his home by Bexar County, Texas, sheriff’s deputies in 2015.

On Thursday, the jury found that officers Robert Sanchez and Greg Vasquez violated Flores’ civil rights by using “excessive and unnecessary deadly force.”

The jury ordered both deputies to each pay $1,435,000 to the family in compensatory damages. In addition, Vasquez was ordered to pay $5 million in punitive damages, and Sanchez $2.5 million.

CNN has reached out to defense attorneys for the deputies for comment.

Months after the fatal shooting, a grand jury declined to charge the two deputies and they were allowed to return to work from administrative leave.

Sanchez and Vasquez responded to Flores’ San Antonio home on August 28, 2015, for a domestic dispute call. Recordings of the 911 dispatchers’ calls released later that year showed Flores’ mother had called authorities that day to report he had hit his wife and had “gone crazy,” CNN affiliate KSAT reported.

Flores spoke to the dispatchers as well, asking if paramedics were coming and later saying he was planning to die at the hands of police, according to the affiliate.

Authorities said that when the deputies got there, Flores was armed with a knife. Then-Bexar County Sheriff Susan Pamerleau said the shooting took place after a “lengthy confrontation,” during which the deputies first tried Tasers and shields to ward off Flores’ knife. Both deputies fired their guns, CNN has previously reported.

A video shot by a bystander showed Flores had his hands up in the air before he was shot. A second video, filmed by a neighbor and released later by authorities, also shows him lifting his hands just before being shot, according to KSAT.

The jurors in the civil case watched the bystander’s video during testimony, the affiliate reported. Vasquez, one of the two deputies, also took the stand and said he tried to deescalate the situation, but Flores lunged at him with a knife several times and struck him with it, according to the affiliate. “The situation was getting bad to worse,” Vasquez said, according to the affiliate.

“The return of this verdict by a jury of our peers here in Bexar County demonstrates that we will not tolerate the use of excessive force that kills our citizens.” said Thomas J. Henry, an attorney for the Flores family, adding that without videos of the shooting the family may “never have obtained justice.”

“My hope is that this sends a message to all law enforcement in the United States that excessive force will not be tolerated,” Henry said.

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