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Trial begins for former Temple police officer accused of killing Michael Dean

Former Temple police officer, Carmen DeCruz shot Michael Dean during a traffic stop in 2019.

TEMPLE, Texas — The trial for former Temple Police officer Carmen DeCruz began Monday, after a motion was denied to have the trial pushed back, again.

The first step in the jury trial is selecting a jury panel from a pool of jurors. Jury selection wrapped up early on Monday as the judge wanted to give ample amount of time for DeCruz' defense attorney to ask the pool of jurors questions.

6 News was in the courtroom Monday and witnessed around 100 potential jurors that were being questioned by the state attorney. There was a diverse demographic amongst the group.

In Monday's jury selection process, a number of the jurors supplied reasons to why they believe they can't be on the final jury panel. Those reasons include health, hourly jobs, traveling and also the mindset towards law enforcement or personal interactions with law enforcement. 

Jury selection will continue Tuesday morning as both parties look to find 12 balanced and impartial people to be on the jury panel. When dismissing the potential jurors Monday, the judge told them not to indulge in media reports, discuss the jury selection process or the case.

DeCruz is charged with second degree manslaughter for the shooting death of Michael Dean, 28, in Temple in 2019.

DeCruz is accused of shooting Dean during a traffic stop. A police affidavit states DeCruz shot Dean in the head while reaching in Dean's vehicle to grab his keys.

DeCruz was seen on body camera video walking in front of his patrol vehicle during a traffic stop with his handgun drawn. DeCruz made contact with Dean on the passenger side of the car and ordered Dean to turn off the vehicle and give him the keys, according to the affidavit.

DeCruz is seen reaching into the vehicle in an attempt to gain control of the keys with his left hand while holding his firearm in his right hand. DeCruz had the gun pointed at Dean with his finger on the trigger, according to the affidavit.

While DeCruz pulled the keys with his left hand, his right hand also pulled backward and caused the handgun to fire, striking Michael dean in the head, the affidavit said.

According to the affidavit, the video shows DeCruz pulling Dean from the vehicle and other responding officers administered medical aid until medics arrived. Dean was pronounced dead at the scene.

This footage has not been released to the public, and it's something the community closest to the Dean family wishes would be available.

"We want to take this delicately to figure out how the city got in this position in the first place," Gary Smith, a member of the Temple NAACP, said.

Smith added that they (NAACP) feel not everything has been made public for the reason of hiding certain facts about the case.

"You see these other instances in America where Black men are shot and the footage from the body camera is shared allover social media," he added.

Six News legal analyst, Liz Mitchell, said because this is an ongoing trial, the footage cannot be shared with the public.

She added that sharing the footage outside of the court room could mess with jury selection.

"It would be even more difficult to find 12 and impartial jurors if the key piece of evidence has already been released to the public," she said.

Mitchell said "key piece of evidence" because she believes the body cam footage is what will prove DeCruz committed manslaughter and not murder.

According to Mitchell, if DeCruz had the intent to murder and cause bodily harm, then he committed murder. But if the state can prove he was reckless in some way, then it's manslaughter.

All the community is asking for now is that justice be brought to the Dean family and all those impacted by this tragedy.

"It could have been anyone's brother, anyone's father, anyone's son and that is why we want accountability," Alexxis McBride, a member of the Temple NAACP said.

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