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The Telegram

Following Up

BELTON -- Police officer James C. Powell, whose been with Belton police since August 2000, was the officer involved in the department's first officer-related shooting since the early 1980s, police said Tuesday.

The fatal shooting of Juan Anzaldua, 25, of Corpus Christi occurred Monday after Powell stopped a speeding vehicle at 3:51 a.m. in the 900 block of northbound Interstate 35.

Family members of Anzaldua, who has roots to the Temple-Belton area, questioned Tuesday why police used the deadly force that killed him early Monday.

Family members also said Tuesday they plan to take legal action.

Powell, a regular day shift officer, was patrolling Interstate 35 as part of the Selective Traffic Enforcement Program when he saw a speeding 1994 Mercury Cougar.

Inside the car was Anzaldua and four others who were headed to Temple after leaving a New Year's party in Belton, according to relatives.

With the vehicle stopped, Powell neared the vehicle. As he saw suspicious activity inside, he drew his gun, said Belton Police Chief Mike Sleeth Tuesday.

Martin Anzaldua, the driver of the car and brother of Juan Anzaldua, said an officer approached the front of the car with a gun drawn.

As the gun was drawn, Martin Anzaldua said Juan Anzaldua exited the car. Martin said Juan got out because of a revoked probation.

"He ran because he didn't want to get arrested but instead got killed," Martin Anzaldua said Tuesday.

Sleeth said Powell made the traffic stop and then approached the vehicle from behind.

Juan Anzaldua bolted out of the car and ran south across the access road. Powell pursued on foot and caught the suspect behind a business building, according to police reports.

Anzaldua charged Powell, which resulted in a physical altercation, police said. Anzaldua was shot during the altercation.

Sleeth said Tuesday that Powell was very close to the suspect when the shooting happened.

Anzaldua was taken to Scott and White Memorial Hospital in Temple, where he died. Justice of the Peace Eddy Lange of Temple pronounced Anzaldua dead at 5:12 a.m. and his body was sent to Southwest Institute For Forensic Science in Dallas for an autopsy.

According to police, no charges were filed on any of other occupants and they weren't involved in the shooting. They were interviewed and then released.

Family reaction

Family members said they are in shock and question the actions of police.

Elizabeth Espiricueta, Juan's sister and a Temple resident, said she plans to talk with an attorney early next week.

"Because we want the truth; in other words, we are going to sue," she said.

She said she feels like she has a strong case.

"Because they shot my brother, they didn't have to do that."

Anzaldua grew up in the area but was in town to celebrate the new year with family and friends, relatives said.

He was born in Corpus Christi and moved to Belton when he was about 9, said brother Adolfo Olivarez Jr.

Anzaldua dropped out of school in the eighth grade and had moved to Temple about five years ago, Olivarez said. He said Anzaldua moved to Corpus Christi about six months ago. He worked at a tamale stand.

Martin Anzaldua, 23, said everybody liked Juan and he had a lot of friends in the area.

"He was just a cool person to be around," Martin Anzaldua said.

Investigation

The active investigation, that includes Belton police and Texas Rangers, continues as the Bell County District Attorney office awaits for information.

Belton Police Chief Mike Sleeth said Tuesday that Powell -- on administrative leave -- is not doing well.

"That's (leave) for his mental health," Sleeth said. "He may return to work in three days or three weeks, that will be between him and I."

"He is taking this very hard as well as several members of the department," Sleeth said.

Powell, 29, has been with Belton police since August 2000. Prior employment was with Pampa Police Department for two and a half years.

To make up for Powell's absence, the police department will make shift adjustments and pay overtime to fill the slots, Sleeth said.

Police hope to have their end of the investigation completed by next week.

Interim City Manager Cristy Daniell had no comment on the shooting Tuesday because the Bell County District Attorney's office was contacted Monday.

Historically, the office has examined shootings involving officers, said District Attorney Henry Garza on Tuesday.

"It's not something out of the ordinary in that regard," he said. "It is the manner we have handled it in the past and continue to handle it in the future."

The district attorney's office will review information from Belton police and then present it to a grand jury, which is a group of public citizens commissioned each quarter to review felony cases.

"That's all the comment I'm going to make at this time," Garza said.