SAN ANTONIO, Texas -- A grand jury Thursday indicted a Bexar County sheriff's deputy, charging him with murder in the shooting death last summer of a motorist.
Anthony Lamont Thomas, 38, posted $50,000 bail and was released Thursday evening, just hours after he was arrested in connection with the killing of Mathew Jackson, 29. If convicted, Thomas could face up to life in prison.
"Mr. Thomas is disappointed about being indicted today, but he believes in justice and he believes in the system," said Thomas' lawyer, Cleophus "Cleo" Marshall Jr. "He is hoping that, once all the evidence has come out, the system will do as it is designed to do and he will be found not guilty of these charges."
Sheriff Susan Pamerleau said Thomas is on administrative leave pending dismissal proceedings.
"As you can imagine, this is a very difficult day for all of us," she said at a news conference. "And we can't recall, in the history of the Bexar County Sheriff's Office, when one of our deputies has had a charge of this gravity."
The indictment comes three months after San Antonio Police Officer Jackie Neal was arrested in the alleged rape of a 19-year-old woman during a traffic stop. Neal also was indicted this month and faces up to life in prison if convicted.
The Sheriff's Office never released the preliminary incident report to the media for the Thomas shooting, citing the open investigation, and directed a reporter asking for it Thursday to the district attorney's office.
However, other documents -- including a custodial death report from the Texas attorney general's office recently obtained by the San Antonio Express-News, describe what happened between the two men Aug. 31.
Jackson, who was off-duty but in uniform, and Thomas both were traveling east on Loop 1604 near Lookout Road at about 5 a.m. when Jackson's car "bumped side mirrors" with Thomas' vehicle, an investigative report from the Bexar County medical examiner's office. They both pulled over, and Jackson -- who was wearing all-black after leaving a shift at 20Nine Restaurant and Wine Bar -- walked toward Thomas' car.
The custodial death report, which was filed by the Sheriff's Office, states that Jackson -- who didn't appear intoxicated but had a blood alcohol level of 0.12 -- threatened the deputy.
Thomas told his supervisors that Jackson "started to run" toward his vehicle, and the off-duty deputy saw him "holding something 'shiny' and then heard what he believed was a gunshot," the custodial death report states.
The deputy then fired eight shots, one of which struck Jackson, who staggered back to his car. He died in the driver's seat of his red Mitsubishi Lancer, where a wooden rosary hung from the rearview mirror and a Bible was tucked in the side of the door.
Thomas then moved his vehicle forward "to create distance and parked it a close distance away waiting for the police to arrive," the report from the AG's office states.
He was placed on 10 days of administrative leave before returning to the courthouse, where he worked a security shift while on administrative duty.
Prior to the incident, he worked as a bailiff in a courtroom, Pamerleau said, and had a total of 16 years tenure with the Sheriff's Office. He'd had his peace officer license for 13 years, records obtained from the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement state.
The Sheriff's Office says Thomas was written up for a disciplinary action last year but otherwise had no blemishes on his career. Pamerleau said that the actions he took the night Jackson was killed "are not indicative of our dedicated and professional deputies that serve this community."
District Attorney Susan Reed said she had questions as to why the deputy drove away from Jackson's body, adding: "I don't know, maybe he decided he wasn't going to leave the scene."
"Just because you wear a badge, you don't get to go around murdering people," she said. "They are peace officers, but they're going to be judged like anybody else."
While awaiting the Sheriff's Office investigation, Jackson's widow, Erica Fitts, now raising their 3-year-old son on her own, enlisted the help of attorney Tim Maloney for a possible civil lawsuit.
Fitts "always knew in her mind what happened" and feels vindicated by the indictment, he said.
Now, Maloney added, the criminal case takes precedence.
"It's a great relief to the family, and a good day for all of us, because it shows that no one is above the law," Maloney said. "The irony is that today is Mat's mother's birthday, and this is a helluva birthday present for her."
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