By Gabriella Ybarra
Source San Antonio Express-News
Two wanted men were killed in separate shootouts with police Wednesday, putting the police chief and district attorney at odds over who is to blame.
Officers were shot at both scenes and taken to the hospital with injuries that were not life-threatening. A week ago, two other officers were shot in a four-hour standoff with a wanted felon, though he was taken into custody without injury.
In each case, officers were attempting to arrest someone on outstanding warrants. Police Chief William McManus has emphasized the "violent history" of the gunmen involved and questioned why they were out on the streets. Both men shot Wednesday had several cases dismissed by the district attorney's office in recent years.
"I remain concerned about people who are on the street who should be in jail because they are habitual offenders," McManus said after the first shootout Wednesday. "Again, we have another officer in the hospital (after) being shot by an individual we were trying to arrest and take off the streets because he was wanted on violent felony warrants."
District Attorney Joe Gonzales held a news conference to defend himself against the accusations.
"It doesn't solve anything to be finger-pointing and engaging in personal attacks," Gonzales said.
Interstate 10 was shut down for several hours Wednesday after the first incident. Officers were tracking down a 40-year-old man in an attempt to arrest him near the Interstate 10 access road on the Southeast Side. He was wanted on multiple felony warrants and was described by McManus as having a "violent history."
When the man spotted police, he crashed into a police car and another vehicle before firing at officers, the chief said.
He then attempted to carjack another vehicle before fleeing down the access road while firing at officers again along the way, the chief said.
McManus said the man ran onto the highway and shot at several vehicles, still trying to carjack someone. Eventually, McManus said, one of the officers fired at the man and he was pronounced dead. Police also arrested a woman who was in the car with the man.
Gonzales identified the man killed in a shootout on Interstate 10 on Wednesday afternoon as Michael Kirkland, whom the district attorney called a "career criminal."
Since Gonzales took office in 2019, he said Kirkland had faced seven charges, ranging from arson to aggravated assault with a weapon to evading arrest. In each case, Gonzales said, his office had to dismiss the charge because victims or witnesses couldn't be found or refused to cooperate. In the evading arrest case, Gonzales said they didn't get the video from police.
"Before anyone is sentenced to prison, the district's attorney's office has to be able to prove the case," Gonzales said. Without witnesses, he said, "it is impossible to move forward."
Later Wednesday, McManus said police were following a stolen vehicle on the West Side known to have been involved in vehicle burglaries. The man driving was wanted and had at least six charges that were dismissed, McManus said.
After following the vehicle to a Home Depot parking lot, officers positioned their patrol car near the stolen vehicle to prevent it from leaving. That's when, police said, the man exited and ran away from officers.
Police said while the man was fleeing, he pulled out a firearm, prompting officers to fire their weapons at him. He was pronounced dead at the scene. His identity has not been released.
One of the officers was struck in the torso by gunfire. He was taken to the hospital and is in stable condition, police said.
McManus said police also arrested a person who was also in the car. He said that person was out on bond on two charges.
The chief responded to Gonzales' comments after the shooting on the West Side and said he didn't want to get in any "arguments" with the DA.
"I don't want to get into a back-and-forth with the DA, but I just know that this happens in many cases. This isn't an anomaly here," McManus said.
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