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‘Just put it down, dude.’ Body cam video shows fatal El Paso police shooting at car wash

'Just put it down, dude.' Body cam video shows fatal El Paso police shooting at car wash
*Editor’s note: The attached El Paso Police Department video linked below features disturbing content. Viewer discretion is advised.

A man claiming to have a gun made menacing comments before being fatally shot by an El Paso police sergeant at an Upper Valley car wash earlier this month, according to a newly-released police body camera video.

The video shows the police patrol supervisor repeatedly telling Michael Anthony Estrada, 30, to ‘”relax” and drop what he’s holding while sitting in a car before firing at least six shots.

The El Paso Police Department on Saturday evening, March 23, publicly released a video with the body camera footage of the shooting on March 5 in a late-night interaction with police at a self-service car wash on Doniphan Drive.

The video is believed to be the first of a fatal El Paso police shooting to be publicly released since the mass rollout of body-worn cameras to equip all patrol officers last year. The video was released as part of a “commitment to transparency and community engagement,” the department stated.

Whether Estrada actually had a handgun — which is not visible in the video — has not been disclosed because it is part of ongoing investigations into the shooting, police spokesman Officer Adrian Cisneros said on Sunday.

Police officials noted that the body-worn camera has a fixed chest-level viewpoint and do not capture everything that an officer might see.

An El Paso police officer tells Michael Estrada, who says he has a gun, "Just put it down, dude," in a screenshot of a body camera video released by the El Paso Police Department on March 23 showing Estrada's fatal shooting at a car wash on March 5, 2024.
An El Paso police officer tells Michael Estrada, who says he has a gun, “Just put it down, dude,” in a screenshot of a body camera video released by the El Paso Police Department on March 23 showing Estrada’s fatal shooting at a car wash on March 5, 2024.

Estrada’s mother, Martha Estrada, of Las Cruces, told Channel 9-KTSM that police told her that a gun was found in the car but police had given her few other answers.

“To know Michael, was to love Michael and he was loved by many. He holds a special place in his loved ones’ hearts and will forever do so, we will dearly miss him,” stated a GoFundMe account raising funds for funeral expenses that previously identified Michael “Mikey” Estrada as the person killed in the police shooting.

The police sergeant involved in the shooting is a patrol supervisor with the Westside Regional Command Center and has nearly 13 years with the police department. His name has not been disclosed.

‘I’m just frustrated’

The body camera video is just under seven minutes long. The shooting occurred within the first five minutes.

The incident began at 1:08 a.m. as a police sergeant on patrol drives in to check on black Ford Mustang with New Mexico plates parked with its hood up at a self-serve car wash bay at 5830 Doniphan Drive.

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The incident unfolds in the video as follows: After the sergeant knocks on the driver’s side window, Estrada sits in the driver’s seat with the door open. A soft drink cup, papers and other items are in the car.

Estrada tells the officer that he is homeless and living out of his car, which has broken down and won’t start. “I’m just frustrated,” Estrada said.

The sergeant asks Estrada if there are any weapons, guns or knives in the car. “No, sir,” Estrada responds.

‘Just put it down, dude.’ Body cam video shows El Paso police shooting

After being asked for identification, Estrada keeps rummaging through papers and items in the car’s center console looking for an ID card, his face is turned away from the officer. Things quickly intensify when the sergeant asks him to step out of the vehicle.

“I can’t do that,” Estrada said.

“Why’s that?” the police sergeant asks in the video, which has captions added.

“You need to back up, bro,” Estrada responds. “You need to back up right now … You need to back the (expletive) up.”

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The sergeant draws his gun, pointing it at Estrada, telling him repeatedly to “relax, dude.” The sergeant asked, “What’s in your hand?”

“It’s a gun. Please, go back to your car,” Estrada tells the sergeant, who keeps telling Estrada to drop what he’s holding and show his hands.

“Just put it down, dude,” the sergeant said.

Estrada keeps telling the officer to return to his patrol car. “I’m not gonna put it down. … You wanna go home tonight, right?” (“Yes,” the sergeant answers.)

“Did you pick the wrong day to go to work today?” Estrada said, before appearing to move and a series of at least six gun blasts are fired by the sergeant, who then backs away to take cover behind a trash bin shortly before the blue-and-red lights of backup officers arrive. There is no further movement in the car.

Police officials said that paramedics were summoned and Estrada died at the car wash.

As is standard procedure with any El Paso police shooting, the incident remains under investigation by Internal Affairs, the Shooting Review Team and the Crimes Against Persons Unit of the El Paso Police Department and the Texas Rangers of the Texas Department of Public Safety.

An El Paso police spokesman could not immediately confirm if Michael Anthony Estrada was the same person arrested and convicted in a Las Cruces online school shooting threat seven years ago.

In 2017, a man named Michael Anthony Estrada, then age 23, was arrested for a causing a panic with a Facebook post threatening to shoot children at his former school, Conlee Elementary in Las Cruces. He was sentenced to two-and-a-half years (30 months) in federal prison.

After his arrest, his mother, Martha Estrada, publicly apologized to the community, said her son had a good heart but struggled with severe depression, substance abuse and mental health issues. She feared for his safety, saying he needed help.

This article originally appeared on El Paso Times: Body cam video shows fatal El Paso police shooting of Michael Estrada

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