EL PASO, TX – A man was arrested last week following an altercation with an El Paso police officer that was like something out of a horror movie.
Authorities say that 29-year-old Rodney Ray Zavala stole a bottle of liquor from the Barrel House Liquor Store.
When officers found him, he was drinking from the stolen bottle. Ignoring the commands of the officer on the scene, he threw the bottle at him.
The officer attempted to deploy a taser to end the situation and get Zavala into custody. The taser did not stop him.
It was at this point that the officer said he produced a hatchet from underneath what appears to be a bathrobe.
KVIA, the El Paso ABC affiliate, pieced looped still images from police body camera footage showing exactly what EPPD officials described.
“Zavala raised it above his head, lunged at the officer and flung the hatchet at him,” according to a police report on the incident.
“In the time it took the officer to retreat to his patrol car and transition to his handgun, the immediate deadly threat was no longer present as the hatchet skipped off the car and landed in the roadway.”
Luckily, the officer was not hit by either the bottle or the hatchet.
He was then able to get Zavala into cuffs and took him to the El Paso County Detention Facility, where he is currently being held on not only a charge of aggravated assault on a public servant, but also on five outstanding criminal warrants, which totaled $25,000.
With the bond for the assault charge, he is being held on $125,000.
Fortunately, the officer did not have to resort to lethal means to end the threat.
Yet there are those who say Zavala would be dead if he were a black man. But here is where those armchair quarterbacks and keyboard warriors have no grasp of the reality of these situations. Every circumstance is different.
The “textbook” only goes so far due to the unknown variables.
In this altercation in El Paso, the suspect, who was standing on an empty sidewalk, threw two items at the officer, either of which could have resulted in a deadly outcome if they had connected.
The officer also maintained a safe distance between himself and Zavala until he was confident that there was no longer an immediate deadly threat. Let’s not forget that the officer did deploy a taser, but it failed to put an end to the situation.
Zavala did have criminal warrants out for his arrest. Those charges are unknown at the time of this writing.
Now, let’s compare this to the Jacob Blake case. Blake was wanted for an alleged sexual assault of a woman. He then went to the home of that woman and took her keys. She called 911.
When police arrived, they were aware of the warrant and the charges against Blake. They attempted to take him into custody, but he fought with both officers. According to police, he was tased twice, both unsuccessful is stopping him.
Continuing to be noncompliant with officers commands, he went to his vehicle, where police say he told them that he had a knife and was going to get it. Blake was not standing on a deserted street or sidewalk.
A crowd had gathered. Blake’s children were in the car.
Blake ignored officers directions not to reach into the car. He appeared to have made a furtive gesture into the floorboard of his vehicle.
Police say that they had to assume that Blake was reaching for the knife he claimed to be in possession of, creating an immediate deadly threat, not only to the officers, but Blake’s children, others in the crowd or potentially the woman whom he had allegedly sexually assaulted. We still live in a system of justice that presumes innocence until guilt is proven.
Unless shown otherwise, we must presume that Blake’s race, not that of the officers on the scene, had anything to do with the outcome. Our law enforcement community is under attack, and they have the right to defend themselves just as much as we do as civilians.
Yet, there are many who not only encourage the violence against police, but they refuse to acknowledge that the police have any right to protect themselves and others in the community that they serve.