JUNCTION, TX — Two deputies along with the Sheriff of Kimble County, Hilario Cantu, Chief Deputy Arthur Leistikow, and Kimble County itself were served papers last week informing them each were the defendants in a $20 million lawsuit in federal court for the wrongful shooting of Hugo Reyes. Reyes was gunned down by Sheriff Cantu while driving on I-10 through the town of Junction. According to the complaint, on February 20, 2019, Reyes was headed home, returning to his family, after a two-week stint working in the west Texas oil fields. His job required him to work two weeks on and then take two weeks off.
According to the lawsuit, Reyes was driving a white 2016 Chevrolet Silverado Pickup truck eastbound on I-10. He was coming from Pecos and headed home to Mission. As he traveled trough Junction, Reyes was on his cell phone with his wife, Amparo Villarreal, and his father-in-law planning a family barbecue to celebrate Reye’s arrival home.
Before Reyes had arrived in Junction on I-10 traveling the speed limit, his attorneys assert, he passed a DPS trooper who was conducting a traffic stop on a dark gray or charcoal-colored Chevrolet Colorado pickup. A very short while after Reyes passed the traffic stop, the driver of the Colorado, identified as Sharrod Moore, pulled out a handgun and shot towards the trooper but missed. A chase ensued behind Reyes who was completely unaware that shots had been fired or that the chase was happening. The lawsuit points out that the suspect driving the Colorado, Mr. Moore, was black.
Kimble County Chief Deputy Leistikow positioned himself in his cruiser a few miles ahead of the chase and witnessed the procession. Reyes was driving about one-quarter mile in front. According to the lawsuit, Leistikow noted that, behind Reyes, the gray Colorado pickup was traveling at 100 mph and passing traffic on the right shoulder of the eastbound lanes of the four-lane, divided interstate. The lawsuit alleges that neither Leistikow nor Deputy Noah radioed ahead to Sheriff Cantu that there was an innocent man driving in a white Silverado ahead of the police chase, as both Leistikow and Deputy Noah fired on the Colorado when it passed, in violation of Kimble County Sheriff’s Office policy.
Meanwhile, the lawsuit alleges, Sheriff Cantu and Deputy Kelby Brown were positioned just east and ahead of Leistikow and Deputy Jack Noah. Sheriff Cantu grabbed an M5 submachine gun and readied for a shot at the fleeing suspect.
Reyes recalled he saw a Sheriff’s Office Chevy Tahoe with emergency lights blocking the exit at mile marker 456. He changed lanes to give way to the emergency vehicles. As Reyes approached the exit however, Sheriff Cantu took aim and, with his fully automatic submachine gun, fired a rapid burst of bullets into the cab of Reyes' Silverado. The lawsuit estimates approximately 15 rounds were fired.
Reyes, who was still on his cell phone relaying the events as they unfolded in front of him to his wife, said he heard the rounds hitting his pickup and also felt a warm sensation in his stomach area. Reyes had been shot.
As Reyes pulled over to the shoulder of I-10, the fleeing Colorado truck with DPS in pursuit passed him. Later, the driver of the Colorado, Mr. Moore, killed himself rather than be taken into custody. According to Reyes, when Sheriff Cantu arrived at his disabled truck, the sheriff told Reyes that, he (the sheriff) had “f—ed up.”
The lawsuit alleges that Deputy Brown, who was with the sheriff when he unleashed the submachine gun on Reyes' truck, did nothing to stop or inform his superior he was breaking agency policy or firing at the wrong vehicle. Reyes sustained at least $250,000 in medical bills in addition to the time he could no longer work.
Reyes was airlifted to Shannon with a gunshot wound in his abdomen. His attorney told the Houston Chronicle that the injuries were serious and Reyes spent several days being hospitalized.
The lawsuit alleges that after the incident, Sheriff Reyes was unrepentant. “Cantu said that if he had to do it over again, his behavior wouldn't change. ‘If the same exact circumstances came up on the day after, I would do the same thing,’ he said,” the lawsuit states.
Sheriff Cantu was taken before a grand jury in May 2019. The 452nd District Attorney, Tonya Ahlschwede, said the grand jury decided not to indict the sheriff. “It’s a rural constituency and they generally do side with law enforcement,” she said.
As an indication about the challenge in Kimble County of indicting a sitting sheriff for firing upon and almost killing the wrong subject, Sheriff Cantu lost in the Republican party runoff primary election held July 14 by only 50 votes. Allen Castleberry received 559 votes to Cantu’s 509.
The lawsuit will be heard by Federal Judge Lee Yeakel in the Western District Court in Austin. Reyes requested a jury trial.