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Trial begins for EPPD officer accused of shooting man in the back

Jurors faced an emotional day of testimony Wednesday as a manslaughter trial began for the El Paso Police officer accused of shooting and killing a Lower Valley man during a burglary investigation.

Mando Kenneth Gomez was a 10-year veteran with EPPD when he allegedly shot and killed Erik Emmanuel Salas Sanchez in April 2015. A grand jury indicted Gomez on a manslaughter charge two years later.

ABC-7 obtained court documents stating Gomez recklessly caused the death Salas Sanchez by shooting him in the back with a firearm. Police were called to a home in the 300 block of Jesuit in the Lower Valley to investigate a burglary. Officers said they believed Salas Sanchez was the suspect of the burglary, and attempted to talk to him.

Sanchez then allegedly armed himself with a metal object and threatened to kill the officers, according to police. An fired a Taser at Sanchez in an attempt to restrain him. Sanchez, still armed, charged at the officers. At that point, Officer Gomez fired his weapon at Salas Sanchez, police said. Th man was transported to Del Sol Medical Center where he died from the gunshot wound.

El Paso Police have confirmed Gomez is still employed and has been on administrative duty ever since the 2015 incident.

Wednesday, Celia Sánchez, Salas Sanchez’s mother, testified for three hours. Speaking through an interpreter, the woman ended her testimony with an emotional outburst that forced the judge to order the jury out of the courtroom while “emotions calmed.”

The prosecution and defense both had the mother go through the events of the 2015 shooting. She explained police knocked on her front door looking for her son Erik. She spoke to them and confirmed Erik was home.

She told the court the officers asked if Erik was doing okay. She explained Erik had been acting strangely, overly excited with basic things. Sanchez said the taller of the two officers then pushed her aside to go into the home. Moments later, the woman said, she heard a gunshot and found her son lying face down in the living room.

When defense asked the mother if she thought it was fair to say an officer shot her son, the woman broke down in tears and asked the attorney if he believed it was fair her son was shot.

When the defense attorney clarified he was asking if she witnessed the actual gunshots, Sanchez cried harder, yelling at the attorney.

“Had I seen it I would have put myself between my son and gun to protect him,” she cried in the courtroom.

The judge then ordered the jury to leave the courtroom.

Moments later, the judge allowed the jury back into the courtroom. The defense attorney then requested the full extent of the final emotional outburst not be translated as, he argued, Sanchez did not answer his question directly. The judge allowed the objection, and testimony from Sanchez quickly concluded.

Nora Sanchez, Erik’s twin sister, took to the stand after her mother. Nora testified she was inside the home when Officer Gomez pushed her mother aside to enter their home.

Nora said police told Erik to put something down, although she didn’t see him holding anything.

Erik, Nora said, then put his hands down on the kitchen table and later raised them. Nora said a shorter officer fired his taser at Erik. Nora said she was about to exit her home when she heard gunshots. When she turned around, she allegedly saw Officer Gomez sitting on a couch, firing his weapon at Erik.

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