Frank Heinz

Three Police Officers, Three Accounts and a Man Burned Before Their Eyes

On July 10, 2017, Arlington police were called to the home of Gabriel Olivas after his family said he had poured gasoline on himself and was threatening to light himself on fire.

Below are portions of the officers' written accounts, submitted to the Arlington Police Department and obtained by NBC 5 Investigates, that detail what happened leading up to Olivas being tased and his body engulfed in flames. He died days later.

A grand jury declined to bring charges against the officers, whose names are redacted. Some punctuation was added for accuracy.

Officer 1:

" ... I realized that although the suspect's skin appeared dry, he could still have gasoline fumes on or around him, and if he was tased that he may light on fire. I turned my head slightly so that I could see ____ and ____ and shouted, 'If we tase him, he's going to light on fire!" I then holstered and turned off my Taser ..."

" ... The suspect immediately stood up, pulled the gasoline can over his head, and began to pour the gasoline on himself. I could see the gasoline running all the way down his torso and beginning to soak his pants. He stopped screaming nonsense and began to yell, 'I'm going to burn this place to the ground. I'm going to light this place up.' ..."

" ... It was then that I noticed he had an object in his right hand ... I believed it to be a lighter of some form ... the suspect began to lean forward, at which point I observed ____ pull his Taser out of its holster and point it at the suspect. I then saw two red lasers on the suspect's chest, indicating that there were two Tasers pointed at him ..."

" ... I heard a sudden pop, like a Taser being fired, and the suspect was suddenly engulfed in flame. I was not able to tell if the suspect sparked the lighter or not ... "

Officer 2:

" ... I felt that if I or my fellow officers would have gone with the hands-on approach, trying to restrain the suicidal male, we would place ourselves in a more dangerous situation ... I chose not (to) use my firearm because I was not sure if the bullet would travel further out into the residential neighborhood, possibly striking an innocent victim, as the suicidal male was standing in front of a bedroom window ... "

" ... I used the Taser with the belief that it would incapacitate the male subject, allowing officers to move in at a safe distance and restrain the male suspect. However, moments later, the individual was engulfed in flames ... "

Officer 3:

" ... I un-holstered my Taser, turned it on, and pointed it at the suspect. I then hear a Taser discharge from my right ... The suicidal suspect immediately catches on fire and I became startled by the flames and moved away from them. I believe during that time (that) officer ____ had discharged his Taser, and me becoming startled and moving away from the flames, that I unintentionally discharged my Taser at the suicidal suspect. I do not know what caused the suspect to catch on fire."

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