Video captures deadly confrontation at Greenville car dealership
GREENVILLE, Texas - Cell phone video shows the confrontation between two bounty hunters and a fugitive inside a Greenville car dealership Tuesday that left all three men dead.
Fidel Garcia and Gabriel Bernal were licensed private investigators from Corpus Christi hired to track down Ramon Michael Hutchinson for an outstanding drug case in Minnesota.
The bounty hunters confronted Hutchinson, who was also armed, inside the showroom of the Nissan of Greenville dealership just after 7 p.m.
The city released cell phone video in which the scuffle between the bounty hunters and the armed fugitive can be seen before several rounds of shots ring out.
The video shows Garcia and Bernal confront Hutchinson in an office with his girlfriend and a dealership employee inside when the gunfire began. An employee was also with two customers in the office right next to them, but none of them were hurt.
A woman at the dealership called 911 while hiding in the bathroom.
“Please hurry,” she told the 911 dispatcher. “I hear a woman screaming.”
The bounty hunters were after Hutchison for failing to appear in court on a felony drug charge. But his record shows more violent charges, including assaulting a police officer and disarming a police officer.
The investigators were hired by a company called U.S. Fugitive Apprehension of Minnesota. One of their bail investigators, Stew Peters, said Garcia was one of their go-to professionals.
“Enjoyed his life in Corpus Christi, lived a modest and humble life,” Peters said about Garcia. “Hard working, dedicated and passionate bounty hunter. He always found his man.”
Rick Ford, the owner of the dealership, said the bounty hunters came into the showroom and identified themselves as federal agents. He said they waited there for several hours for Hutchinson to show up.
Ford said he and his employees didn't give the men permission to be in the showroom but never asked them to leave or to show their badges.
Peters told us Garcia was a licensed professional and would not have misrepresented himself as a federal agent.
“Absolutely not. We've known Fidel for over a decade,” Peters said. “We certainly would have severed ties many, many years ago if we thought there was a risk of that happening ever.”
Greenville police say none of their officers or other law enforcement were involved in the shooting.
Bounty Hunters in Texas
In Texas, there is really no license for a ‘bounty hunter.’ They are licensed private investigators and have to have prior law enforcement experience or investigative experience, take numerous classes, go through an FBI background check and pass a state exam.
But even with that kind of experience, multiple private investigators said the bounty hunters in this shooting may have made some poor decisions.
Several questioned Garcia and Bernal’s decision to confront their suspect in a crowded workplace.
Michael Phariss manages private investigators licensed to bounty hunt for the Texas Response Group. He said he would’ve done things differently just knowing the basics of what happened.
"The first thing, of course, we would do is notify local law enforcement of what we are doing, what's going on,” he said. “The best thing to do is actually sit in the car. Watch and wait.”
It's not clear if the investigators notified police before approaching Hutchinson.
Phariss is also troubled by the fact that the employees said the bounty hunters identified themselves as federal agents, making it a crime.
The biggest problem Phariss has is where the investigators decided to arrest Hutchinson.
"Let them leave and get them on the way out,” he said. “That way, you have very few people around that can actually be injured or hurt. And you can actually control the situation a lot more effectively."
Catherine Smit-Torrez is also a private investigator and was personal friends with Garcia. She was on the Board of the Texas Association of Licensed Investigators along with him. She says he was a professional, engaged to be married and doubts that he would have misrepresented himself.
"He had the persona that, ‘I'm a big teddy bear and anybody can trust coming and talking to me,’” she said.
Bounty hunters typically collect 10 percent of whatever the amount of the bond is that the suspect skips out on. In this case, it was a $50,000 bond that was worth $5,000 to Garcia and Bernal.