On Feb. 6, 1893, two men at a Benavides bar got into a disagreement and were about to start swinging when a newly elected constable stepped in to stop the fight. The constable, who was an amputee, with only one arm was pushed back by one of the two men and the lawmen drew his pistol but was shot and killed by a bystander. Nobody served time in jail as the Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas reversed the conviction in a lower court, ruling that the lower court failed to instruct the jury that the fatal shots could have been in self defense.
Now let us visit the story as closely as possible given the scarcity of available historical records. The Corpus Christi Caller would have been the newspaper of record for this type of incident but most issues from 1891-1898 are missing due to a fire.
Clemente Reyna was elected constable for Duval County Precinct #2 in Benavides on Nov. 8, 1892. He was sworn in on Jan. 1, 1893 and five weeks later
E.A. Glover shot him “to death with a double barreled shotgun.”
Glover claimed he was preventing Reyna from killing one of the man involved in the fight.
The two man who were about to exchange fisticuffs were Hayes Dix and Andrew Valls, both prominent residents of the county. What they were doing fighting in a bar is not known. Up to that point Dix had been active in social events but went on to serve as deputy county surveyor and in 1912 ran for county judge. Valls, on the other hand, was elected the first county clerk of Duval County and served in the position until 1888 when he resigned. He also was the long serving secretary of the county Democratic Party. The shooter Glover was also a prominent citizen having been active in the pioneer life of the county from its earliest days, was a successful businessman and was the postmaster of Benavides for many years.
Glover was indicted by the Duval County Grand Jury, but was tried in Webb County on a change of venue. The Webb county jury found him guilty of manslaughter and sentenced him to a two-year term in the state penitentiary. The Webb County court followed the district court’s instruction and believed Glover killed Reyna to prevent him from killing Dix. In, other words, Glover was not in fear of his own life. Glover appealed to the Court of Criminal Appeals.
According the the Court of Appeals, Dix and Valls were involved in a fist fight or shoving match and Constable Reyna stepped in to try to stop them. Dix pushed Reyna and there is some dispute among witnesses whether the shove resulted in Reyna falling to the floor or not. In either case, Reyna reached for his gun and Glover reached for his shotgun. According to the court of appeals’ interpretation of the facts, Reyna said nothing, thus the court surmised that this did not indicate that his intention was to perform his duty as a peace officer. One would think that would be the logical assumption, absent any other evidence.
The court concluded that Reyna
“drew his pistol evidently with the intent of killing Dix or Glover”
who was sitting in the bar with his shotgun. The court goes on to say that Glover gave Reyna warnings to “raise his hand” and to stop, but Reyna did not stop and Glover shot him. The constable fell dead with his finger on the trigger.
The court than goes through several paragraphs of suppositions to conclude that Glover was justified in shooting the lawmen, because he feared for Dix’s and his own life. Why Glover would have assumed that his life was in danger is not made clear by the court. He was not party to the fight. Glover had not pushed Reyna so why would Reyna want to kill him?
A convoluted decision indeed.
But, why did not Glover and the court suppose the most obvious intent of the lawmen that he was simply enforcing the law and preserving the peace, which he had sworn to do only a short five weeks before.