The Wrongful Death of Aaron Hobart

Steve Hobart says he’ll never forget the frantic moments after his 19-year-old son was shot. He’ll never forget seeing a bloodied Aaron Hobart die in front of his eyes as he struggled to give him CPR.

“We wanted Aaron to get help,” Hobart said with watery eyes Tuesday. “We didn’t want him to die.”

Stafford police have said Aaron attacked officer Jesus Estrada after police responded to a 911 call at his parents’ Aspen Lane home last week. During the struggle, Estrada shot and killed Aaron, police said.

But Aaron’s father and a family attorney said Tuesday that the unarmed, mentally ill man was shot four times after Estrada pushed him away.

His father said Aaron was in a psychiatric crisis. He was delusional and had refused to take his medication. His parents hoped police would either persuade him to take the pills or take him to the hospital.

But the Hobarts believe Estrada and the Stafford Police Department were unprepared to deal with a psychiatric emergency. A police spokesman declined to comment on the shooting because the investigation is in progress.

Aaron’s family said he didn’t need to die. “We want to improve their training, we want to help the police. We don’t want to see this happen again,” Hobart said.

Signs of trouble

Aaron was a high school graduate who loved video games, playing the drums and his laptop computer. But from an early age, his father and brother said, it was clear he would have special challenges.

As a child he was diagnosed with attention deficit disorder and Tourette’s syndrome.

A few years ago, his brother Chris Hobart said, Aaron began to become delusional. He believed there was a “single world order.” He communicated with people who thought the same things on the Internet.

In 2007, things reached a head. Aaron was pulled over by police for a traffic violation. When they asked him questions they realized something was wrong and took him to a hospital for treatment. His father said he was there for 17 days.

Aaron eventually got a job as a YMCA lifeguard. He started taking classes at a community college. He went to church. The family started to do things together again.

In the last few weeks, Aaron started to have trouble again. He stopped cutting his nails and refused his medication. Steve was alarmed when Aaron told him he was God.

Aaron’s mother, Pam Hobart, told police that on Feb. 18, a psychiatrist advised her to call 911 for a “crisis intervention team,” said family attorney Tommy Gillaspie. It was the first time they ever called 911 for help. Aaron wasn’t violent, his family said.

Steve was in Aaron’s room trying to persuade him to take the drugs. Gillaspie said Pam opened the door to Estrada. The officer walked into the house, and Aaron somehow realized he was there and ran out of his room. Steve remembers crying, “Here he comes!”

Gillaspie said the 19-year-old began flailing his arms at the officer, who pushed him off, pulled his gun and threatened to shoot .

Pam turned away for a split second, the attorney said. Estrada shot six times, hitting Aaron four times on his right side. A fifth bullet ricocheted and lodged in his body.

Steve ran out of the room and heard his wife screaming. Aaron was lying face down on the ground.

Steve put a hand on a bullet hole in Aaron’s neck. A newly arrived officer helped flip Aaron over and together they began doing CPR. The family believes Aaron died before he reached the hospital.

What is required

Estrada, 23, had 16 hours of “crisis intervention training,” according to state records. That is the minimum mental health intervention training required under Texas officer licensing rules. He has been an officer for less than two years.

Police officers can receive a state “mental health officer” certification after taking an additional 40-hour course.

Local mental health advocates say 16 hours is not always enough for first responders who need to learn complex techniques to defuse a psychiatric crisis.

Many large Texas police departments have expanded mental health training . Houston requires new officers to take a 40-hour course , said Lt. Mike Lee, head of HPD’s mental health unit.

“Every officer in the state has at least some training,” Lee said. “But in smaller agencies it’s kind of a hardship to provide 40 hours of training.”

Stafford police spokesman Raphael Virata said he wasn’t sure whether new officers underwent special mental health training or how many mental health officers the 43-officer department has on staff.

“We follow what the state standards dictate.”

Coping and praying

The last week has been hard on the Hobart family. Pam had to take valium and be sedated. Steve said he still thinks the family has four members sometimes. Then he catches himself.

Steve has been busying himself with planning a memorial service scheduled for Thursday at Memorial United Drive Methodist Church.

Last week, he met with a small group at his church. They prayed for Aaron and the Hobart family.

And they prayed that the officer who killed Aaron will somehow find peace.

Officer Estrada testified that, prior to arriving at the home, he was aware that Aaron was hallucinating, but did not know if Aaron was mentally ill or was simply under the influence of drugs. (Id. at 138.) Officer Estrada also testified that he believed dispatch had informed him that Aaron did not have a weapon. (Id. at 179.) SPD Sergeant Dustin Claborn (“Sgt. Claborn”) testified that Officer Estrada asked dispatch to ask Mrs. Hobart to step outside to talk to him when he arrived. (Pls.’ Ex. 2, Dustin Claborn Dep., June 4, 2010, at 126.) However, it is undisputed that when Officer Estrada arrived, Mrs. Hobart let him into the house. (See id. at 128.) Sgt. Claborn also testified that Officer Estrada did not attempt to learn where Aaron was located or whether he was trying to hurt himself or others. (Id. at 127-30.)

The video camera in Officer Estrada’s car was running during the events at issue in this case, and both sides have provided that footage as an exhibit. The video shows Officer Estrada enter the Hobarts’ home by himself at approximately 15:07:59 on the video’s clock. For a period of time only the front yard is visible, with audio from inside the home captured on Officer Estrada’s microphone. Immediately after he enters the home, one can hear Officer Estrada conversing with Mrs. Hobart. At approximately 15:08:15, one can hear noises, and Officer Estrada shouts, “Stop!” and “Get back!” several times. At approximately 15:08:20, one can hear gunshots. Officer Estrada then begins shouting, “Goddamnit!” “Shots fired!” and “Oh my god!” and Mrs. Hobart begins screaming loudly. The video then shows two other SPD officers arriving in the house at approximately 15:08:43. They accompany Officer Estrada onto the lawn, where he kneels down with his head on the ground sobbing, and remains panicked during the next seven minutes of video and audio, repeatedly saying, “Oh my god,” crying, and stating that he cannot catch his breath.*fn4

According to Officer Estrada’s testimony, the following occurred in the house: When he first entered, he thought that everything seemed quiet and normal, and “perceived . . . that either the disturbance was over or there was no disturbance.” (Estrada Dep., at 208-11, 224-25.) Mrs. Hobart let him in, and the two spoke inside the house. (Id. at 209-10.) Officer Estrada then began walking down the hall, at which point Mrs. Hobart pointed town the hall, and Officer Estrada saw Aaron, approximately 30 feet away. (Id. at 224-30, 236.) Aaron was in a bedroom, and at first he was facing away from Officer Estrada, not yelling, sc reaming, or causing a disturbance. (Id. at 228.) Aaron then turned and saw Officer Estrada for the first time, at which point he loudly “roared,” brought his arms up “from down low to-up to his waist,” and began to charge at Officer Estrada. (Id. at 228-36.) At that point, Officer Estrada, who was approximately five feet away from the front door of the house, “took a step back trying to back away from him” because he believed Aaron was “going to come at” him. (Id. at 233-36.) However, Officer Estrada was unable to get out of Aaron’s way or to back out of the house because Aaron traveled the entire length of the hallway and began “attacking” Officer Estrada. (Id.) Officer Estrada remembers in those moments “hearing and feeling [] thumps on [his] head” that he attributes to “being punched” on the left side of his face and head. (Id. at 252-60.)*fn5 Officer Estrada attempted to pull out his baton but was unable to because it got stuck in its holster, and was also unable to use his spray or to operate his police radio. (Id. at 237-41.) He testified that Aaron hit him to the point where Officer Estrada became “disoriented,” began “seeing stars” and “darkness” coming into his vision, and thought he was “fixing to be knocked out.” (Id. at 257-64.) He then heard the sound of gunshots, but did not know that he was the one doing the shooting, let alone who he was shooting at. (Id. at 262-63.) He does not know where Aaron was in relation to him when the shooting occurred, and is not sure where Mrs. Hobart was at the time (though he thinks she was to his left). (Id. at 265-68.) A few seconds later, Officer Estrada believed that Aaron was getting back up and felt someone-who he believed to be Aaron-grabbing his vest, so he attempted to shoot his gun again, but could not get his fingers to squeeze the trigger. (Estrada Dep. at 276-77; Pls.’ Ex. 4, Statement of Jesus Estrada, at 76.) However, the person grabbing his vest turned out to be one of his fellow SPD officers, who had just entered the house. (Estrada Dep. at 277.)

According to Mrs. Hobart’s testimony, the following occurred in the house: When Officer Estrada arrived she “was under the impression that . . . [she] was getting a CIT person that was going to explain that and was going to go through a certain procedure, so [she] was trusting that they knew what was going to happen next.” (Defs.’ Ex. 19, Pls.’ Ex. 6, Pam Hobart Dep., March 23, 2010, at 168.) Aaron ran from out of his bedroom and toward Officer Estrada while “flailing with his arms.” (Id. at 33-35.) When he reached Officer Estrada, “Officer Estrada had his arms up,” and Aaron’s arms hit Officer Estrada’s arms. (Id. at 33-35.) She did not see Aaron’s arms hit Officer Estrada’s head. (Id. at 35.) Although Mrs. Hobart acknowledged that she did not “see every single strike that Aaron made on Officer Estrada, sufficient to tell us where each one landed,” she “watched them the entire time,” and only closed her eyes after Officer Estrada pulled gun from its holster but before he fired it. (Id. at 37-40.) The flailing stopped and “2 or 3 seconds passed” before Officer Estrada began shooting. (Id. at 40.) In the few seconds prior to the shooting there was “a separation of 2 or 3 feet” between Aaron and Officer Estrada, and that she had shifted her weight to go between the two, at which point Officer Estrada pulled out his gun. (Id.)

Officer Estrada fired six or seven bullets in the Hobarts’ home, and four struck Aaron: one in the back of the right upper neck, one in the right lower back, one in the back of the right hip, and one in the right middle back. (Pls.’ Ex. 22, Autopsy Report, at 4-6.) Officer Estrada did not have any bruises on his face from the incident, although he did have some redness on his face. (Estrada Dep., at 260; Pls.’ Ex. 16-21, Photos of Estrada’s Injuries.) At the time of his death on February 18, 2009, Aaron was nineteen years old, stood five-foot-nine-inches tall, and weighed 166 pounds. (Pls.’ Ex. 22, Autopsy Report, at 3.). He was barefoot and dressed in shorts and a t-shirt. (Id.) There is no suggestion that he had any type of weapon at that time. Officer Estrada stands six-foot-one-inch tall and weighs 190 pounds. (Estrada Dep., at 53-54.)


For the reasons discussed in this order, Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED with respect to Plaintiffs’ claims under state law, and DENIED with respect to Plaintiffs’ claims against Officer Estrada and Plaintiffs’ claims under the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act; Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss is DENIED with respect to Plaintiffs’ claims against the City of Stafford; and the Motions to Quash Deposition Notices and For Protection from Improper Discovery are DENIED.

This is a great injustice of a system designed with laws that are not meant to protect citizens yet meant to protect the law makers from their illegal actions
my most sincere condolences to the Hobart Family

– Angel


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