Many wonder why Texas student had to die

Jaime Gonzalez

BROWNSVILLE, Texas -- On a doorstep outside a family home, a father wondered why police had to shoot his son in the hall of the boy's middle school. In an office across town, a police chief insisted that his officers had no choice.

And scores of others in this Texas border city wondered: Could the death of 15-year-old Jaime Gonzalez have been prevented? A day after police fatally shot an eighth-grader who was brandishing a realistic-looking pellet gun, his anguished parents pleaded for answers, demanding to know why police didn't try a Taser or beanbag gun before resorting to deadly force.

In front of the family home, the father lamented his loss and called on authorities to explain their actions. "Why three shots? Why one in the back of the head?" asked Jaime Gonzalez Sr.

Some standoffs with police last three or four hours, he said. This one "took not even half an hour."

But there was broad agreement among law enforcement experts: If a suspect raises a weapon and refuses to put it down, officers are justified in taking his life. The shooting also raised questions about whether pellet guns should be marked in a way that would easily distinguish them from real handguns.

Brownsville interim Police Chief Orlando Rodriguez denied the family's accusations that the boy had been shot in the back of the head. He defended his officers, saying that the younger Gonzalez pointed the pellet gun at police and repeatedly defied their commands to put it on the floor. Officers spoke with the boy's parents Thursday and exchanged information with them, the chief said.