The State of Texas executed convicted cop killer Manuel Garza Jr. on Wednesday, making it the sixth execution carried out by the state this year.
According to the Associated Press, via ABC News, Garza was convicted in 2002 for the of killing San Antonio Police Officer John “Rocky” Riojas the previous year. The incident occurred when Rijoas had stopped Garza outside of an apartment complex and asked for his identification. Garza ran, but the officer caught up with him, and witnesses say the two got into a scuffle before Garza got a hold of Rijoas’ gun and shot him. Garza then fled the scene with the officer’s gun in his possession.
At the time, Manuel Garza Jr. was only 20-years-old, but he had already built a lengthy criminal record that included burglaries and evading police in a stolen vehicle. When he was arrested, Garza told investigators that Rijoas was to blame for the incident.
“I truly think this was the cop’s fault. I don’t see why he wanted to pull out his gun.”
A court document shows that Manuel Garza Jr. ran from the officer because he knew he had outstanding warrants for his arrest.
“As I started running the cop was telling me to stop. I just wanted to get away. I knew I was gonna go to jail and I didn’t want that.”
During a recent interview with KSAT 12, Garza said his decision to run was a mistake, and the killing of Officer Rijoas was “an accident.” Fifteen years after the incident, Garza said he doesn’t let it get the best of him.
“I try not to ponder it too much. I made my peace with God many years ago.”
Before his execution, Manuel Garza Jr. apologized to the friends and family of Rijoas and “especially police officers.” Garza then looked into the eyes of three San Antonio police officers, all of whom were friends with Rijoas, and wished them well.
“Y’all probably hate me. [I wish you] peace and love and hope y’all find God like I have and I’ll see you on the other side.”
Manuel Garza Jr. was then injected with a lethal dose of pentobarbital. Garza then said his final words before the drug fully kicked in.
“Here it comes. Goodbye.”
Texas has the most executions of any state in the U.S., according to Reuters. Manuel Garza Jr.’s was the 524th since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976. Two more executions planned for the month of April, and three are scheduled to take place in May.
[Images of Garza and Rijoas via San Antonio Express-News]