DALLAS — Civil rights leaders expressed concerns Monday after Dallas police killed the second unarmed man in nine days.
Tony Menchaca died in West Oak Cliff Sunday morning after claiming to have a weapon and making what police called threatening gestures.
According to police, Menchaca said he would shoot officers if they didn't shoot him first.
On October 29, Tobias Mackey died in East Oak Cliff after police said he refused to show his hands. He was also under a criminal trespass warning.
But police believe the latest shooting may have been justified, even though five officers fired a total of 23 shots into a man who had no weapon.
Deputy Chief Craig Miller said in the minutes leading up to Menchaca's death, he told police he had been doing methamphetamines for three days.
"At times, as I said, he's very rational and lucid; there are times, though, he's very irrational and upset and agitated," Miller said.
Dallas police confirmed that Menchaca was unarmed, but that they had no way to be certain of that on Sunday morning. The man repeatedly claimed that he had a gun and said he would shoot police if they did not shoot him, according to official accounts.
"He says, 'This is it.' He reaches into the back area of his pants ... and immediately comes forward aggressively with his right arm, at which time five Dallas police officers shot and fired," Miller said.
Tony Menchaca had a cloudy criminal record, including two cases of assaulting a police officer. The courts cleared him in one of those cases.
The idea that he wanted police to kill him is a bitter pill for his family to swallow.
"I don't think so, because there were moments when he really wanted to move on," said Liz Menchaca, the dead man's sister. "He talked about the future, how he loved my son. He wanted to be the father figure that my son didn't have."
Menchaca's death is the second fatal shooting of a minority by Dallas police in nine days. That has some community leaders crying foul.
"People are putting their hands up and they are being executed," said community activist Ronald Lawrence. "That's a strong word."
But on Monday, officials of the local chapters of the League of United Latin American Citizens and the NAACP seemed to accept the police explanation.
"They spent about 45 minutes trying to talk him down; they tried to talk this man out of it," said LULAC district director Beatrice Martinez. "At the same time, what he was telling them was he wanted to die."
Critics say police should be trained well enough so that they do not participate in suicides, but in their defense, police said they were in no position to wait and find out if Menchaca's claim to have a gun was authentic.