The Dallas Morning News
Dallas police officers must now wear their body cameras at all approved off-duty jobs, Dallas police Chief Eddie García told department employees Monday in an email obtained by The Dallas Morning News.
Beforehand, officers were allowed — but not required — to use their assigned body cameras at off-duty jobs. The policy shift solidifying their use at off-duty jobs came two days after an off-duty Dallas police officer fired at two suspected gunmen outside a north Oak Cliff club and didn’t have his body camera.
Officer Keenan Blair shot three times at Luke Guerra, 30, and Edward Hernandez, 18, after they opened fire from a car and shot a man in the stomach, Deputy Chief Terrance Rhodes said in a video released by police Monday. Blair was not injured.
Guerra and Hernandez later showed up at a hospital “with injuries that were consistent with bullet fragments, grazing and glass shards,” Rhodes said. They were treated and arrested on charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. It was unclear whether they had attorneys.
García said in the email to officers Monday there are “many instances where officers are working off-duty jobs and taking reports, affecting arrests, and/or involved in use of force incidents” which he said are “crucial for prosecution, transparency, and for justification.” He said it is “imperative” the cameras are utilized per policy and in accordance with Texas law “while in an on-duty capacity and off-duty employment as well.”
The presidents of the three major associations within Dallas police all said they approved of the new policy.
Mike Mata, president of the Dallas Police Association, said the policy wasn’t initiated earlier because police didn’t have enough body cameras and the department had a cloud storage issue, which has been resolved. ”In this case it’s was just a matter of policy catching up with progress,” he said.
George Aranda, president of the Dallas National Latino Law Enforcement Organization, said the cameras are “an added tool that protects our everyday rank and file and shows transparency to the everyday citizen that we are out there doing our job to the fullest and protecting our stakeholders.”
Terrance Hopkins, president of the Black Police Association, said cameras protect officers since “most of the time, you’re justified” and also shows transparency for the community.
“What we have to do, ultimately, is protect the officers,” Hopkins said. “In the climate we live in today, there are some people that have some integrity issues, and the majority of the time that camera will prove the officer did everything that they needed to do by policy and procedure.”
Hopkins said not all officers have body cameras, it’s primarily uniformed officers in patrol. He pointed to the Saturday shooting as an example of if there had been footage, “there wouldn’t be any questions” about what happened.
Police released about a minute and a half of surveillance footage showing some of the shooting outside the club. Rhodes said in a recorded video statement that Guerra and Hernandez were “involved in a negative interaction” with the man who they later shot in a parking lot in the 200 block of South Llewelyn Avenue, near Jefferson Boulevard.
Blair, who was working across the street at the 216 Lounge, saw the shooting and shot at the truck with the two gunmen to protect the man who was struck, Rhodes said. Police said the gunmen in the truck fired more than 20 rounds at a crowd in the parking lot. Someone in another car going the opposite direction also fired at least five rounds in the air, Rhodes said.
Another off-duty Dallas police officer was nearby and did not fire his weapon. A security guard in the parking lot fired into the air to disperse the crowd, and did not appear to strike anyone, Rhodes said.
The man struck in the stomach was taken to a hospital, where he had surgery, Rhodes said.
The surveillance footage released by police shows a truck turn out of the parking lot as someone appears to hang halfway out of a passenger window. Moments later, a black car also turns out of the parking lot and appears to show someone who hangs halfway out of a side window.
The footage switches to different surveillance footage that shows two men speaking with a man by a crowd of people before a security guard comes over. The three men walk out of view, and moments later the black car comes into the frame. The security guard ducks behind a car, then appears to fire into the air. The person hanging out of the side window of the black car appears to be holding something in the air as the car speeds away.
The footage did not show the off-duty Dallas police officers. Police did not say Monday whether Blair was still on active duty.
The Dallas Police Special Investigations Unit and Dallas County District Attorney’s Office are investigating.
The shooting marked the fifth involving a Dallas police officer in 2022, Rhodes said. The sixth happened about seven hours later when an officer fired at a man during a domestic dispute call in east Oak Cliff. No one was struck.
Last month, an officer fatally shot Kyle Dail, 30, about three seconds after Dail raised a handgun and tossed it away from officers during a struggle.