The top prosecutor in Potter County announced Wednesday that a grand jury declined to indict three police officers involved in the accidental shooting of a man who disarmed a hostage-taker at Faith City Mission.
The man, who was identified by his attorney as Tony Garces, was mistaken by police as the suspect during the Feb. 14 shooting, Amarillo Police Department said. Garces, 54, survived the shooting.
“The grand jury has found that they have done nothing wrong criminally, and therefore they will be returning to service at some point,” 47th District Attorney Randall Sims said at a news conference.
Garces’ attorney, Jeff Blackburn, said the grand jury was a “joke.”
“This is not a complicated case,” he said by phone. “The police shot the wrong guy. They made a mistake. Period. As usual, the City of Amarillo cannot ever admit that it made a mistake.”
Blackburn said Garces, who was shot twice, was treated for a collapsed lung and a pulmonary embolism.
“Fortunately, the Amarillo Police Department officers aren’t very good shots or they would’ve killed him,” Blackburn said.
Legal action against the city was “definitely on the table,” he added.
APD said the initial call just before 9 a.m. referenced an armed suspect holding about 100 people hostage in the mission’s chapel.
Chief Ed Drain said Wednesday that 10 officers responded to the scene. The officers were positioned at different doorways to the chapel when they heard a shot and “flooded” in within seconds, he said.
They found 24 hostages and a chaotic scene with two women running to a doorway followed by Garces, who was carrying a handgun, Drain said. He matched a description of the hostage-taker, Drain said.
An officer “saw those two women run out the door (and) realized their lives could be in danger,” Drain said.
He fired a shot, missing, Drain said. Garces exited into a hallway. Another officer saw him run into the hallway, ordered him to drop his weapon and fired a shot, Drain said.
A third officer also fired at Garces, Drain said. He said the three officers fired four shots. No others were hit by gunfire.
“Now, of course, we know that the person who was holding the weapon when those officers went in there was not the original suspect,” Drain said.
Drain said there was “no question” the person is a hero. He also emphasized that officers properly followed training in the shooting.
The suspected hostage-taker, 35-year-old Joshua Len Jones, was booked into Potter County jail on six charges of aggravated kidnapping.
As Drain was walking reporters through the incident Wednesday, Sims halted the news conference, saying he was concerned it would taint potential jury pools in the case.
Drain pushed back, saying he needed to explain why officers shot the wrong person.
“I have an obligation to make sure the public has a full view,” he told Sims.