On June 7, the families of Charles “Chop” Roundtree and Marquise Jones held a vigil at Milam Park – Plaza del Zacate – demanding that their loved ones’ cases be reopened and justice be served. The families, alongside the Autonomous Brown Berets of San Antonio, came together with the community to mourn their family members and confront their killers — the San Antonio Police Department (SAPD).
“We as a family, as a whole, are angry because everybody is so worried about people outside of our city, and our hearts drive for them, they really do. Whenever there is a murder by police, we as families relive this over, and over, and over again. We as families are still fighting for justice for our loved ones. We have a corrupt SAPD that hides everything, lies about everything and covers up for each other. They put them on paid administrative leave until they get their story straight. Then the District Attorney will stand there, and they vouch in our faces and tell us, ‘I’m going to do everything I possibly can to indict this officer.’ Then they turn around a week later, like in Marquise’s case — Nico “lie”hood [former District Attorney Nico LaHood] — we found out no indictment went down from the news. No one called us and told us, they didn’t even tell our lawyers.” – Deborah Bush (Marquise Jones’s aunt)
Numerous protests have been held across the city in the days both before and after the vigil, pulling unprecedented numbers of people into the streets of San Antonio.
SAPD murders of Marquise Jones and Charles “Chop” Roundtree
In 2014, 23-year-old Marquise Jones was killed by an off duty cop who was working as security at a restaurant in northeast San Antonio. The cop, Robert Encina, claimed Marquise had a weapon. He shot Marquise eight times as he ran away, claiming that “he had a gun” and “he looked over his shoulder at me.” The family sued the city in civil court, but the case was closed with minimal investigation. Robert Encina is still a police officer in the SAPD, despite allegations that he planted a gun near Marquise’s body after he was dead.
In the fall of 2018, police killed Charles “Chop” Roundtree after responding to a neighborhood quarrel that did not involve the 18-year-old. After responding to the fight outside, Officer Steve Cassanova pushed open the door of a nearby house, did not announce himself as a police officer, blinded the room with a flashlight and shouted at Chop and another person on the couch to put their hands up. When the other person on the couch stood up, Cassanova recklessly shot into the house, killing Chop and injuring the other person. The officer stated that he felt his life was threatened and that he saw a gun. Meanwhile, his partner shot and killed a barking dog near the house.
Like Robert Encina, Cassanova maintains his position in the department. SAPD chief William McManus justified Chop’s killing, saying, “It’s a very, very unfortunate, tragic incident that happened…Unfortunately, that person who was just sitting there was killed by a bullet fired at someone who was attempting to use deadly force against police.” McManus did not mention that this “attempted deadly force” was the other person in the room with Chop simply standing up from the couch.
Rallies alongside families, protests against DA
Since the uprisings began across the country in response to the murder of George Floyd, local activists have rallied alongside families to reopen the cases of Marquise and Chop. Like in other places around the country, thousands are in the streets in San Antonio demanding justice for victims of national significance like George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, but also for local victims of police terror.
Black people in San Antonio, while only six percent of the population, are overrepresented in jails, in homelessness, in levels of poverty, and in police murder victims. Police aggressively patrol the East Side of San Antonio, which is home to a large portion of the Black population in the city. Both Marquise Jones and Chop Rountree were murdered on the East Side.
District Attorney Joe Gonzales recently stated that he does not plan on reopening these cases. Multiple protests have been held outside of the DAs office in the last few days. The families and their supporters are demanding justice, and they will be heard!
“I had to call and ask him [the DA] and he said he received nothing. The same with them [Roundtree family]. We were on the steps of City Hall every Friday when Charles Roundtree was murdered. [The DA] goes on the news and says he hears the families downstairs, he said he understands what they are going through, but then the next day, they didn’t indict Steve Cassanova. That was on video with him. His bodycam showed everything. He should have been indicted for the murder of Charles Roundtree and attempted murder of the other young man. The same fight that y’all are fighting out there for Floyd, should be here… We mourn every day. We miss the Christmases, birthdays, any family get-together… All we have is pictures and memories. We have videos of Marquise dancing with his cousin, acting crazy, and Charles rapping in the car with his friends and his family. That’s all we have. And when we come out here to fight we come out here for each other. “ – Deborah Bush