Questions surround death of teen shot by Navasota police officer in northwest Harris County


"I was screaming at him," witness Steven Yarbrough said.

Yarbrough says he's still furious over Wednesday night's shooting at the Villages of Copperfield Apartments off Park Point Drive and Highway 6. His friend, 17-year-old Jonathen Santellana, died after a confrontation with an off-duty officer at the north Harris County complex.

"I heard three gunshots, and then I heard about five following after that," Yarbrough said.

Yarbrough tells us the unidentified officer who shot Santellana is the guy wearing a gray hoodie and dark pants in a video obtained exclusively by ABC13.

Upset tenants say that Navasota police officer lives in the complex and is not stranger to controversy.

"He just walks around and like, he's kind of a bully," Yarbrough said. "Like, he'll walk up to people and he'll be, like, 'What are you doing outside? It's after 9 o'clock,' and, like, I'm a grown man."

Investigators say the officer works security at the apartments and told them he saw some suspicious activity, possibly involving drugs, in a car. As he approached, the officer claimed the driver threw the car into reverse, hitting him.

Relatives tell us Santellana died from a single gunshot wound to the back.

A female passenger who was with Santellana at the time tells ABC13 the officer never identified himself and they thought they were being robbed when man ran up to their car, waving a gun.

"And he was aiming at all the windows and towards both of us. Not the tires. Or anything trying to stop the car. He was aiming at us," witness Kalee Marsteller said.

"They expect kids not to run away from an officer that has a gun in his hand, but they don't even know he's an officer," neighbor Daniel Brock said.

The Navasota Police Department has placed the officer on administrative leave. According to officials, he has worked with that department for two years.

Yarbrough says the officer walked over to him, demanding he delete video from his cell phone shortly after the shooting and car wreck.

"I was trying to get videos and pictures, and when I started videotaping, he pushed the phone down and told me that if I didn't delete the video that he was going to confiscate my phone," Yarbrough said.

A vigil for Santellana was held Thursday night.

Find Demond on Facebook at ABC13DemondFernandez or on Twitter at @demondfernandez

Take ABC13 with you!
Download our free apps for iPhone, iPad and Android devices

Copyright © 2023 KTRK-TV. All Rights Reserved.