Monday, March 05, 2018
On the morning of Feb. 14 -- the same day as the Florida school shooting that killed 17 kids and teachers -- Tony Garces wrestled a handgun away from a man who had entered the chapel at Faith City Mission and threatened to hold church attendees hostage. But a responding officer fired at Garces, striking him twice -- once in the back and once above his collar bone. The Amarillo Police Department appeared to confirm Garces' account, saying an initial investigation determined that police fired at a man who'd disarmed a would-be hostage taker in a church with 100 people in its chapel. Garces said he'd been staying at the mission since January, after he completed a prison term the month before for assault and other charges. There, Garces said he was attending a drug and alcohol rehabilitation program. In the chapel that morning, Garces first became aware of the gunman when he said he heard a security guard shout: "He's got a gun, he's got a gun."
Then, Garces said, the guard, who was not armed, fled the church, along with some other congregants. The gunman then gave a woman zip ties and instructed her to tie Garces up. She left one of the ties loose, Garces said, and when a few other people scrambled toward the gunman, Garces went for his weapon. "As soon as I moved, he pulled the trigger," Garces said. "It hit the wall." He said he was able to grab the handgun, then leave through a side door that led to the cafeteria. Holding the gun upside down -- and clutching it with both hands -- he said it was there that he encountered an officer with a rifle who told him to drop the weapon. "I started bending down to put it on the ground," Garces said. "I didn't want to drop it. It would go off. That's when he shot me."
One bullet grazed his back, but a second punctured his lung and collapsed it. He said he returned to the hospital on Monday after he began to have trouble breathing. Aside from requesting a statement from Garces, authorities have had no contact with him, Blackburn said, adding that if the city doesn't offer compensation he'll likely sue in federal court, arguing the officer was negligent and violated Garces' civil rights.
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