By Oli De Los Santos
Friends, family and community gathered on the steps of the Hays County Public Safety Building on Sunday to remember the life of Joshua Leon Wright.
Wright, 36, is remembered for co-founding the Facebook group “Take a Picture to End Racism Now” or TAPTERN, which garnered over 10,000 followers, and when a 7-year-old girl in his neighborhood was abducted and sexually assaulted, he started a neighborhood watch to help protect the children in his community.
While the community came together to honor Wright, they also gathered in protest, demanding justice for his death.
On Dec. 12, 2022, Hays County corrections officer Isaiah Garcia fatally shot Wright in the back six times inside Ascension Seton Hays Hospital in Kyle, Texas. Authorities alleged Wright attempted to escape custody and assaulted the corrections officer. Texas Rangers are investigating the shooting but have remained quiet regarding details of the events leading up to Garcia’s use of lethal force against Wright.
Social justice organizations Mano Amiga and Fierce Madres helped organize and host the event. According to Mano Amiga co-founder Karen Muñoz, Sunday’s event focused on three demands.
“The first is that they release the body cam footage.” said Muñoz, “The second is that Isaiah Garcia, the jailer, be fired. He shouldn’t be working at the jail.”
In a statement from Hays County, the Texas Rangers declined to release the footage and other details about the shooting until the investigation is complete. Garcia was initially placed on administrative leave but is back to working at the jail, contrary to a previous statement from Hays County that he would not return to work while the investigation was ongoing.
Muñoz said the third demand, “Is that Sheriff Cutler step down because all of this happened under his watch. It’s clear that he is not fit to be in charge of a jail if he’s allowing this to happen.”
Angela Villescaz, the founder of Fierce Madres, is a friend of Wright’s mother, Beverly Wright, and helped organize the Jan. 3 rally outside of the Hays County Historical Courthouse. She expressed frustration with Sheriff Cutler and recently elected Hays County District Attorney Kelly Higgins regarding the unreleased body camera footage.
“I understand he’s new,” Villescaz said, “but it’s always the right time to do what is right.”
The Texas Rangers said that releasing the footage too soon could impede the investigation. However, calls from the community to release the body camera footage have only grown in the past month.
“This is wrong, he killed my dad, shot him six times,” Wright’s daughter, Xyrrena Wright, 13, said to the crowd, speaking out against Garcia’s reinstatement. “He was a good person, he was a good dad.”
Featured Image by Oli De Los Santos.
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