The lethal shooting of a combat veteran at the hands of a Bexar County sheriff’s deputy who responded to a mental health call spurred Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff to express his concerns with the criminal justice system.
According to family members, Damian Daniels, the veteran who was shot and killed on August 25, served two tours in Afghanistan.
On September 8, 2020, a county judge sent out a letter that criticized the system as “flawed” and demanded that it be “fixed.”
“Our criminal justice system is systematically flawed to the extent that it fails to administer justice to the poor, the homeless, minorities, and to the mentally ill and drug dependent citizens,” the letter declared.
According to Daniels’ brother, Brendan Daniels, the Afghanistan veteran had no criminal history, although he did have mental health issues.
Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar came to the defense of his deputies claiming that he is confident the deputies did everything possible before using deadly force against Daniels.
After reviewing the case, Wolff had a differing opinion.
“It may have been better to send crises mental health professionals rather than deputies with guns and uniforms,” he declared on August 28. “Based on the information I have regarding the unfortunate death of Damian Lamar Daniels, I believe this incident should have never happened.”
In the judge’s letter, Wolff listed various ways he believes the system would be repaired:
- Address a number of police and deputy reforms, including use of force.
- Police and deputies should not take mentally ill and drug-addicted people who have committed non-violent offenses to jail.
- Texas Legislature needs to prohibit commercial or cash bonds for misdemeanor cases and instead allow personal recognizance bonds be issued under standards set by magistrates and pretrial services officers.
- Texas Legislature needs to pass a reasonable gun control law.
- Texas Legislature needs to change the way judges are elected.
Wolff concluded by calling on local and state governments to enact reforms that he said would “make significant progress in establishing a justice system that will be fair to all, including the poor, the homeless, minorities, and the mentally ill and drug dependent citizens.”
Although there are reasonable concerns about police conduct, trying to turn this incident into a call for gun control is beyond laughable. Plenty of lawful individuals use guns responsibly on a daily basis. Moreover, the standards for public officials are obviously much higher. Private gun owners cannot be blamed for police misconduct — perceived or real.
These are two separate issues. When policymakers are able to make these distinctions, then we can have more productive policy discussions and create real solutions.