A La Marque Police Department officer won’t face criminal charges in the fatal December shooting of 22-year-old Joshua Feast, the Galveston County District Attorney’s Office announced Tuesday.
A Galveston County grand jury decided Tuesday to take no action against officer Jose Santos, according to the district attorney’s office.
Although criminal proceedings ended with the grand jury, an administrative investigation continues and Feast’s death might be headed to civil litigation.
The city was reviewing police department policies and procedures and would deliver a report about the review to the mayor and city council, interim City Manager Chaise Cary said.
City officials urged residents to stay calm and peaceful.
“We know that this is a difficult time in our city, we ask for patience as we continue to grow and to heal,” Cary said.
Evidence supported the grand jury’s decision, District Attorney Jack Roady said during a news conference Tuesday.
“I believe the shooting was justified,” Roady said. “I believe the evidence supports that it was justified. I believe that the decision that the grand jury made here was correct and just.”
Part of the evidence was body-camera video that showed Feast twice pointed a handgun at Santos before the officer fired, a Galveston County Sheriff’s office detective said Tuesday.
Feast’s mother said she wasn’t satisfied with the grand jury’s decision.
LaKeisha Feast also said she wasn’t surprised by the decision.
“I would have been surprised if he was convicted,” Feast said.
Feast said she knew of people who had been notified about being potential witnesses for the grand jury hearing but were not called to give testimony.
It was the grand jury’s choice on who was called to give testimony, Roady said.
Feast said she intended to file a civil lawsuit over her son’s death. She said she didn’t think Santos, who had fatally shot one other person in the line of duty and who had been accused of brutality in another case, should be allowed to continue as a police officer.
Grand juries in Texas hear the facts of a case, as presented by prosecutors, and determine whether probable cause exists to indict a person for a crime. Grand juries are secret proceedings, and the members of a grand jury aren’t known to the public.
Santos shot and killed Joshua Feast during a chaotic encounter on a La Marque street on Dec. 9.
Santos encountered Feast about 11 p.m. during an investigation into a series of shootings in La Marque, officials said. He had been ordered to the street to apprehend Feast, officials said Tuesday.
Feast had been named a person of interest in the series of shootings and was sought on two outstanding felony warrants, including felon in possession of a firearm and evading arrest.
As he pulled up in his patrol car, Santos called out to Feast by name, investigators said. Feast, who was leaning partway inside a parked car, quickly got out of the car with a gun in his left hand and turned, apparently to flee, investigators said.
Less than four seconds passed between when Santos pulled up and when he fired a shot at Feast, officials said.
Galveston County Sheriff’s Office detective Mel Villarreal reviewed body-camera video taken from Santos’ personal camera during the shooting, which investigators enhanced and slowed.
In the enhanced video, a gun can clearly be seen in Feast’s hand. Villareal said the video showed that Feast pointed a gun at Santos twice. First when the officer pulled up behind him and again after Feast turned to run.
“As he was running or fleeing, he pointed back at officer Santos,” Villarreal said.
Santos fired one shot, striking Feast in the back. Feast ran about 30 yards before collapsing on the driveway of a residence, where he died, officials said.
The shooting spurred a wave of protests in La Marque, reminiscent of national demonstrations that occurred in 2020 after the death of George Floyd at the hands of police officers in Minneapolis.
After Feast’s death, activists in Galveston County organized regular marches and called for Santos’ firing and prosecution.
The news conference explaining the evidence presented to the grand jury was, in part, a reaction to those protests and other calls for reform and transparency from law enforcement, Roady said.
Roady said that in his 10 years as the district attorney he had never before held a news conference after a grand jury decision. That time included at least a half dozen cases of police officers shooting people in the line of duty, he said.
“The reason this is being treated different is because of the time we live in now,” Roady said. “This was a high-profile shooting. It drew a lot of scrutiny and public attention and we wanted to make sure that at the end of this investigation we provided the public with as much information as we could by law and answer any questions, as much as we can, so that the public can have confidence that the investigation was thorough and just.”
It’s the second time in Santos’ career that he has been cleared of wrongdoing in a fatal shooting. In 2017, he shot and killed a man who forced his way into a house and threatened the resident with a sword, according to police.
Santos fired that fatal shot after the man had struck him in the head with the sword, according to reports at the time.
Santos worked for the Galveston Police Department from 2012 to 2013. He resigned after he and several other officers were sued in federal court by a man who claimed his face was held in the surf during a beating at the hands of Galveston police officers. That lawsuit was dismissed.
With the grand jury’s decision on Tuesday, Santos was placed on administrative duty at the La Marque Police Department, a city spokeswoman said. Since the night of the shooting, Santos had been on paid administrative leave, meaning he’d been told to stay home during the course of the investigation.
La Marque Mayor Keith Bell said the shooting and investigation had been hard on the La Marque community.
“What’s making me sad is that a mother lost her son,” Bell said “Regardless of the circumstances, regardless who may or may not be responsible, at the end of the day, no parent wants to lose their child. That’s No. 1.
“No. 2 is that when police departments go through these ordeals, these types of things aren’t pleasant for them as well. I want us to be a community that we love and that will never ever have to face another ordeal like this.
“I don’t want anyone in our community to have to experience this, and I don’t want any of our officers to have to discharge their weapons for any reason.”