An independent autopsy found a 22-year-old Black man killed by Texas police last week was shot in the back—and now his family is demanding a federal investigation into his death.
Joshua Feast, who was allegedly wanted on multiple warrants, was fatally shot by La Marque police officer Jose H. Santos Jr. across the street from his Galveston house on Dec. 9. Police allege the 22-year-old pointed a firearm at Santos, who responded by firing several gunshots.
But Ben Crump, a civil rights attorney representing the Feast family, insisted the father-of-two posed no threat and was actually fleeing the scene when he was fatally shot. His death, which was captured on video that has yet to be released, has since spurred protests across Texas against police brutality.
“He was a defenseless man who was running away,” Crump said. “There was no reason for [Santos] to shoot and kill this young man, who had only turned 22 three weeks ago.”
During a Wednesday evening press conference, Crump released the results of an independent autopsy commissioned by Feast’s family, saying it proves the young man was fleeing from officers.
Crump said the autopsy report concluded Feast was struck by a single bullet in his upper right back and suffered multiple injuries—including fractured ribs. Feast lost more than 16 ounces of blood before he arrived at the hospital, he added.
The examination, Crump said, is consistent with several accounts from neighbors, who said Feast was running away from Santos at the time of the shooting. Neighbors also said Santos yelled Feast’s name—but did not tell him to stop running or put his hands up, according to Crump. The lawyer alleged Santos, who has a history of using excessive force and is now on paid administrative leave, kicked Feast after he was shot.
“We, now based on the results of the independent autopsy and based on the medical records taken from the night that Joshua Feast was killed, are demanding that Officer Santos be terminated immediately,” Crump said at a press conference.
Crump urged authorities to release all video footage of the tragic incident before Feast’s Friday funeral and said the family wants the investigation to be handed over to the Department of Justice because they do not trust local authorities.
“I just feel like my son shouldn’t be dead, and the officer should be held accountable,” Lakeisha Feast, the 22-year-old’s mother, said Wednesday. “My grandkids should still have their father here. It’s very hurtful.”
The La Marque Police Department says the Dec. 9 incident began around 11:15 p.m. when officers approached Feast, who they say was also a person of interest in several recent shootings in the Texas area. While details of what prompted the shooting remain unclear, officials say Feast, who was sitting in his car, got out and started to run across the street.
Officers then opened fire, striking Feast, who was later pronounced dead at a local hospital.
La Marque Police Chief Kirk Jackson said rifles were found at the scene, but he didn’t provide details on where they were found or whether the firearms belonged to Feast.
“The La Marque City Council, the La Marque police department, and a vast majority of our citizens want the same thing: a peaceful, safe community,” Jackson said.
Galveston County Sheriff Henry Trochesset told CBS News that investigators who have viewed video of the incident say the footage shows Feast pointing a gun at Santos after they approached him about an outstanding warrant. The Galveston County Sheriff’s Office and District Attorney’s Office are investigating the shooting.
An FBI spokesperson told The Daily Beast on Thursday they are “aware” of the shooting and will “take appropriate action” if any information arises that indicates “potential federal civil rights violations.” A spokesperson for the city of La Marque also told The Daily Beast officials do not have a comment about the independent autopsy report.
Crump said Wednesday the Dec. 9 incident is not the first time Santos has been involved in a violent arrest in Galveston. In 2013, while employed by the Galveston Police Department, Santos was one of several officers who violently arrested Reginald Deon Davis, a Black man who was sleeping in his parked car near the Galveston seawall.
During that incident, which was captured on video, several officers beat and kicked Davis. When he tried to run away, Santos discharged his Taser on Davis’ back—before holding his head underwater and in the sand, according to a 2013 federal lawsuit.
“I can’t breathe,” Davis said as his head was submerged, according to the lawsuit cited by the Houston Chronicle. Davis eventually dropped the case, and Santos has denied the allegations.
A Galveston police spokesperson confirmed to The Daily Beast that Santos, who was hired by the department in May 2012, resigned in December 2013. His resignation came about four months after the lawsuit was filed. The spokesperson declined to give a reason for his resignation.
A year later, Santos was hired by the La Marque Police Department. In 2017, Santos fatally shot a home invasion suspect who allegedly swung a sword at the officer and his K-9 partner, according to the Chronicle. The sword reportedly hit Santos in the face.
“In 2013, it was assault and battery, now in 2020, it is murder. What would have happened if we stopped him in 2013? Lakeisha Feast would have her son,” Crump said. “That’s what this is about. Our children are dying.”