Deadly shooting of Dallas officer reignites bail reform debate

It's been two weeks since the deadly shooting inside a Northeast Dallas Home Depot and questions continue to grow about how the shooter was able to get out of jail on bond so many times.

The shooting happened while officers were trying to arrest Armando Juarez on an outstanding warrant. Dallas Police Officer Rogelio Santander was killed. Officer Crystal Almeida is still in the hospital. Home Depot Loss Prevention Officer Scott Painter continues to improve and has been released from the hospital.

Juarez had been a non-violent offender and was released from jail multiple times. Some feel the push for bail reform means more potential people like Juarez on the street and he's the poster child for why the bail reform movement is a bad idea. But proponents say his case makes the argument for bail reform.

READ MORE: Dallas officer killed in Home Depot shooting; suspect charged with murder

Juarez was supposed to have been sentenced to probation in February after accepting a plea deal for stealing two trucks.

Former prosecutor Tom Nowak is not involved in the case.

“It’s a pretty common occurrence where defendants don’t show up for their sentencing and we have to find them again or go looking for them,” Nowak said. “There’s just a lot of those cases. I’ve handled hundreds of those cases over my career.”

Juarez first went into the system in 2007 for failure to ID, a misdemeanor crime. That same year, he was charged with cocaine possession, a state jail felony.

Between 2007 and 2017, Juarez was ticketed 17 times, which led to three more arrests. In December 2017, he was arrested on a theft charge for stealing a truck, a state jail felony. While out on bond, he stole another truck and was arrested on January 1, 2018. He still got out again on bond 14 days later.

The night of the shooting on April 24 when police put out the alert for a distinctive Ford pickup, the plates on it were from one of the stolen vehicles.

In all, Juarez had been placed on bond nine times since 2007. He failed to appear eight of those times.

But Juarez had nothing violent in his criminal history.

“It’s a pretty common occurrence in Dallas County that we have people with records like these,” said UNT-Dallas Law School Professor Mike Howard. “This is a case that I think makes a very strong argument for bail reform.”

Howard says bail reform is more than letting poor low-level offenders out of jail. It involves better risk assessment tools that may indicate a person might show violence though they’ve never shown that before.

“There’s a whole lot of factors that social science looks at that can predict someone’s likelihood of violence,” the law professor said. “And that’s what the bail reform movement wants to use. Because when we understand more about people when we're setting bonds, we can have a better snapshot of that person.”

When bond is set, It’s based on a person’s criminal history, how many convictions, how serious are the crimes and the current charges against them.

Howard says bail reform would identify more specific risk marks. In the case of Armando Juarez, it might have been his drug possession, leading then to court-ordered rehab, and possibly conditions that would have been more intense and restrictive.

“The idea is if we learn more about these defendants, we can not only let nonviolent offenders out and keep costs down for the taxpayer but we can also keep the community safer,” Howard said.

Bail reform is not just in Texas. It is a national debate.

Critics of bail reform say leniency and lowering of bonds will put other potentially dangerous people on the street.

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