Heads bowed and some eyes brimming with tears, the family of a Wichita man shot and killed late Saturday by Wichita police filed into the sanctuary of a church Wednesday evening.
Each wore a white T-shirt. John Paul Quintero’s image was on their chests.
On the back, the date of his birth and of his death – Jan. 3.
They told a crowd of about 100 people who gathered for the candlelight vigil honoring the man they called “Paulie” may have been intoxicated that night when two officers arrived at his home in the 500 block of North Oliver after his aunt called 911 to say her nephew allegedly threatened a woman with a knife.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Wichita Eagle
But he deserved help from police, they say – a place to wind down.
Not a “death sentence.”
“I’m angered that they took John’s life when all we tried to do was get him to a place where he could sober up,” said Antonio Saiz, one of more than a dozen family members of Quintero’s who gathered inside St. Mark United Methodist Church for the vigil.
“To use lethal means against him is nothing but cold-blooded murder.”
Four days after Quintero’s death, his family members and others in the community who have been outspoken about what they see as a rash of unjustified police shootings gathered at the church for about an hour to offer prayers for the 23-year-old, to raise money for his funeral, and to urge witnesses who saw what transpired on Jan. 3 to come forward.
Wichita Interim Police Chief Nelson Mosley earlier this week described Quintero as “belligerent,” unwilling to comply and confrontational with two officers who responded to the 911 call shortly before 7 p.m. Saturday. Quintero, who police found sitting in the driveway of the home in an SUV with his 44-year-old father, moved toward an officer who had deployed a Taser and reached toward his waistband after exiting the vehicle, Mosley said Sunday.
That’s when another officer fired twice from a rifle into Quintero’s midsection, Mosley said.
Quintero died later at a local hospital. Police earlier this week said they had not recovered any weapon that he might have used. Neither officer was wearing a body camera.
In an interview this week a family member told The Eagle police escalated the situation and got out of their patrol car “ready to kill.” Police at the time would not discuss that and other family comments.
On Wednesday in brief remarks to the crowd at the vigil, Santiago Quintero said he told police his son was unarmed and drunk on alcohol before the shooting. He said his “son never stood a chance” against the officers.
He broke down in tears as he spoke of his son “being shot, executed and killed in front of my eyes.”
As he cried, more than a dozen family members rose from the church’s pews and gathered around to offer comfort and share in his grief.
“He was not perfect by any means. But he was my 23-year-old son. I noticed my son’s hands were up, he was Tased, his hands dropped to his sides and then he was shot,” Santiago Quintero said.
“No parent should bury their kid or child,” he told vigil goers.
He urged witnesses to continue coming forward.
“I thank you to the witnesses who have come forward thus far to report what they have seen,” he said.
“I know the truth will come out.”
In closing the vigil, the Rev. Reuben Eckels held up a cellphone before the crowd. He urged them to not wait “until the police officers get (body) cameras. You have yours,” he said, to a round of applause.
“If you’re in a situation if you see something, film something. And say something,” he said. “… We have the power to come together to make change.”
The family of John Paul Quintero has set up a GoFundMe page soliciting contributions to help pay for his funeral expenses, including possibly taking his body to San Antonio for burial.
Donations may be made at www.gofundme.com/jpquintero.