BAYTOWN, Texas - Benjamin Quezada, 21, was shot and killed by a Baytown police officer early Tuesday after officials said he pointed what appeared to be an AR-15 at the officer. The gun turned out to be a pellet rifle.
Police received a call shortly after midnight that an armed man was wearing a camouflage jacket, standing in the intersection of West Texas and Gaillard Street in Baytown.
The officer said the man was carrying a rifle in a low-ready position while walking in the street. Lt. Eric Freed said the officer ordered Quezada to drop the gun, which appeared to be an AR-15.
"At that point the man turned, looked over his shoulder, and looking in officer's direction, kept walking," Freed said.
He says the officer ordered Quezada to drop the rifle twice more, Quezada turned and pointed it at the officer.
"He was swinging around with a rifle, and the officer was in fear of his life. He said drop the gun and feared the guy was going to engage him in a gun battle," Freed said.
Quezada was killed by a shotgun blast and pronounced dead at the scene.
In the Baytown neighborhood where Quezada lived with his parents, neighbors reacted angrily to news of the shooting.
"He wasn't right in his mind. The elevator didn't go all the way up. They killed that dude for no reason," neighbor James Wilson said. "He'd do dumb stuff. Police come over to his house many times, find him sitting outside playing with BB guns."
Wilson said Quezada was mentally challenged and earned a living doing yard work with his father. On one occasion Wilson says police went to the family home and confiscated a pellet rifle that resembled an AR-15, but later returned it to him.
Freed was unable to find a record of that, but says another Baytown officer confiscated a pellet pistol from Quezada in December 2014, during a traffic stop. Quezada was a passenger in the car and was arrested for public intoxication.
Neighbor Ernesto Cienfuegos says he never saw Quezada act violently or aggressively.
"That ain't him, that ain't him," Cienfuegos said. "He was just trying to make an honest living, doing yards, doing whatever it takes. I can't picture him doing that."
But Freed says Quezada had a previous arrest for assault, and court records show he was sentenced to 10 days in jail after pleading guilty to evading arrest in November 2014.
The officer involved in the shooting is a 14-year veteran of the Baytown Police Department. The officer was unharmed and will be on paid administrative leave for three days.
The shooting is under investigation by the Baytown Police Department, the Harris County District Attorney's Office and the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences. The case is expected to be referred to a grand jury.
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