Concerns about a possible shoplifter at a Northeast Dallas Home Depot Tuesday afternoon quickly turned into a fatal shooting of a Dallas police officer, a massive manhunt and a high-speed chase.
The shooting inside the hardware store unfolded in a matter of minutes. It began when Home Depot Loss Prevention Officer Scott Painter informed off-duty Dallas Police Officer Chris Seward, who was working a part-time job at the store, about a suspicious Latin male who was possibly trying to shoplift. The man was later identified as Armando Luis Juarez, 29.
The arrest affidavit says "Officer Seward detained the suspect, checked for warrants and a felony warrant came back.”
Sources tell FOX 4 a knife and a can of mace were taken off of Juarez. But in the initial pat down, the gun in the groin area of his pants was missed. He was not handcuffed. With Juarez in a back room of the Home Depot, Seward called for a marked unit and backup. That’s when officers Rogelio Santander and Crystal Almeida responded.
The affidavit says Seward went to the squad car to view the suspect's warrant and photo. He then heard “shots fired” broadcast over the police radio. Santander, Almeida and Painter had all been shot.
Body camera footage shows that Almeida and Santander were attempting to place Juarez in custody when he removed his hands from his pockets and drew a handgun to shoot both officers. Santander was pronounced dead Wednesday morning. Almeida was shot in the face and is fighting to survive. Painter, who was unarmed, was also shot multiple times.
Juarez was able to escape before more officers arrived.
A Dangerous Chase
A massive manhunt began after DPD sent out an all-points bulletin for Juarez and his white Ford truck. Later in the night, a rookie police officer spotted his truck in Southeast Dallas. When he tried to pull Juarez over, he took off.
Juarez led police on a dangerous, high-speed chase through the heart of Dallas. He weaved through traffic, drove into neighborhoods and went onto sidewalks and through yards and fences. His luck came to an end when he turned into a dead-end street in Oak Lawn.
Several residents heard the commotion, but one homeowner witnessed the entire takedown from the second floor of his home.
Scott Fausett was looking out his front window when a white pick-up truck being pursued by countless law enforcement officers came crashing into a fence in front of his home.
“He tried to go through the fence. He hit the tree, hurried and backed up. Hit the truck. Parked on the street. Tried to go forward,” he recalled. “And by that time, all the officers came up on him and had their guns drawn.”
Fausett was recording as officers arrested Juarez just after 9 p.m. He's never seen so many police involved in one pursuit.
“It was a sight to see,” he said. “There were probably 150 officers from many different agencies who just converged into the neighborhood.”
Fausett stood at the edge of his driveway on south Versailles Avenue as detectives processed the scene and bagged a handgun lying in the road believed to belong to Juarez.
The resident says he had a chance to talk to several of the officers throughout the night and offered them water and use of his bathroom. Fausett says he was struck by how kind and professional they all remained during the four-hour investigation in light of dealing with such a personal attack on two of their own.
“They put their life on the line every day for you and I, and they never know when they leave work early if they're coming home,” Fausett said. “These are husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, and they just never know. Last night to watch them work was amazing.”
The Gunman’s History
Before Tuesday's shooting, Armando Luis Juarez was wanted on a car theft warrant, but he had no violent crimes in his past. His family says he had begun to go down the wrong path.
Juarez’s relatives offered their thoughts and prayers to the families of those he's accused of shooting. They say they're a family of law enforcement so it's especially painful. They're also saddened and disappointed by the way Juarez's life spiraled out of control.
Janine Longoria is Juarez's grandmother. She says she’s heartbroken over what her grandson is accused of doing.
“I send my condolences for what had happened because I'm just as shocked as everybody is,” she said. “It feels like I had a nightmare, and I'm trying to wake out of it.”
Juarez was calm as he was booked into the Dallas County Jail Wednesday morning, marking the end to a violent crime spree.
Juarez's relatives, who call him by his middle name, say the father of two young girls has abused drugs and alcohol since his early 20s. His aunt says he was an abused child and was heavily impacted by the deaths of his sister, baby son and his mother's diagnosis with muscular dystrophy.
Juarez’s father did not want to speak on camera. He admitted that no matter what’s in his son’s past, nothing warrants what he is accused of doing.
“What prompt this? I just don't know. I never knew he would do such a thing,” Longoria said. “Did Luis have any sort of grudge against police? No. No, he didn't. He didn't. He never mentioned it.”
Juarez’s grandmother says she hasn't seen him since last week and only learned of the violence unleashed at Home Depot as police descended on her house Tuesday evening.
Juarez's aunt says his mother tried to get him into drug rehab last year when he was charged with stealing a truck. She says his mother wrote to his court-appointed defense attorney saying "I'm begging the courts to help my son. He needs rehab, not prison time."
“I wish I could change the way… I wish I could reverse the days, but I can't,” Longoria said.
Juarez ended up with deferred adjudication in the case and avoided jail time. But after he failed to attend a February hearing, a warrant was issued for his arrest. It turned up while officers were questioning him at Home Depot.
Juarez is facing several charges, including capital murder. His bond has been set at more than $1 million.
Support For The Victims
The Dallas Police Department is mourning, once again, for a fallen officer. Colleagues say Santander was an outstanding officer.
Officers Santander and Almeida joined the police department on the same day three years ago and graduated from the police academy together in August of 2014. They were working out of the Northeast substation, where Dallas Police Association President Mike Mata also is based.
“Rogelio was an amazing young man. He is what we want as a Dallas officer. He is what the citizens expect,” said Dallas Police Association President Mike Mata. “His family obviously raised him right. They raised a good human being.”
Santander is the ninth North Texas police officer killed in the line of duty in the last two years.
Santander graduated from Skyline High School in 2009 before getting his degree in Criminal Justice from Texas A&M Commerce and joining the Dallas Police Force.
Almeida is out of surgery but remains in critical condition.
“She has gone through protocols from the physician to show that she has cognitive skills and recognition,” Mata explained. “And she’s able to move parts of her arms and legs. So for taking the injury that she did, that’s amazing.”
Painter also remains in critical condition. He is also being hailed a hero.
“We want to thank him because, just like those officers, he risked his life too,” Mata said. “He took bullets that maybe would have been pointed in the direction of our officers, and he took them. He's still in serious condition, but he’s improving and he’s doing very good.”
Less than two years after the deadly July 7, 2016 ambush, the Dallas Police Department is again reeling from the realities of policing.
“In this profession, things can go very bad when somebody has the intent and the want and the need to kill or harm officers and they have the ability to do it,” Mata said. “And that’s what we are faced with today.”
Funeral arrangements have not been made for Santander.