ONLY ON 13: Houston family seeks justice years after off-duty officer shoots teen

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Three years after an officer shot their son, a local family is still searching for answers.

Parents in northwest Houston are looking for answers in the death of their 17-year-old son who was shot and killed by an off-duty police officer in 2013.

Jonathen Santellana was sitting in a parked car with his friend, Kalee Marsteller, in the parking lot of an apartment complex called Villages of Copperfield when off-duty City of Navasota Police Officer Rey Garza shot and killed him.

Joseph Santellana and Roxana Harrison still do not know why Garza shot their son.

"It's been rough, even though it's almost been three years, it doesn't seem like it's been that long," Santellana said. "He was your typical 17-year-old. He liked to skateboard, play basketball, just a happy kid overall."

Officer Garza told a different story to investigators than Marsteller did. According to documents Eyewitness News received from Santellana's attorney, Garza was wearing a t-shirt and sandals and armed with a gun when he attempted to investigate a crime.

Garza told investigators he thought Jonathen might have drugs in the car, so he put his badge up against the glass window of the car and told Jonathen and Kalee to get out.

Jonathen made a fatal mistake: he hit the accelerator and put the car in reverse.

Garza told investigators he though his life was in danger.

"I don't know if I'm aiming for his head. I can't see where I'm shooting," Garza told investigators, "So I'm just shooting towards him."

Marsteller told investigators Jonathen didn't think Garza was a police officer.

"I believe Jonathen took off because he was going to get robbed or shot," Marsteller said.

There is also an independent eyewitness to the crime who declined to be a part of this story. She made a statement to the Harris County Sheriff's Office saying she "heard two gun shots" and that, when she turned around, she saw a Hispanic man still standing on the sidewalk.

"The Hispanic male fired about three to five shots into the windshield," the eyewitness told deputies.

A Harris County grand jury did not indict Officer Garza the first time. He was reinstated as a City of Navasota police officer. Now he works as a patrol officer for the Hedwig Village Police Department.

Jonathen's parents want another grand jury to examine the facts of the case.

"There was an independent witness that saw the entire shooting and the DA's office never called her to testify," attorney George Farah said.

Since grand juries are secret, a spokesman for the Harris County District Attorney's Office could not confirm the fact that the eyewitness did not testify. He said it is rare for a grand jury to take another look at a case.

"I just think that he would rest in peace better," Jonathen's mother, Roxana Harrison, said, "I know he would want us to fight for him."

Farah said the family could make their request for a new grand jury review as early as next week.

Related Topics:
officer involved shootinggun violenceHouston
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