What began as a quick stop at a San Antonio, Texas Walmart to buy an outfit for an annual holiday lighting ceremony quickly turned into a devastating nightmare for the family of Isidro Zarate after the man was shot to death in the store’s parking lot. While circling the lot as his wife went inside, Zarate witnessed a young woman being beaten by a man outside of a parked vehicle. He pulled his car up to the scene, rolled his window down and said, “Get your hands off her.” Moments later, he was dead.
According to San Antonio Police Chief William McManus, the incident took place around 4pm in the midst of the Black Friday rush. Witnesses reported hearing gun shots and quickly called 911. Though Zarate’s wife was inside the establishment, there was an additional female passenger in the car with him who was injured by broken glass and shrapnel but survived the horrific incident. Zarate was not as lucky.
Described by his widow as a loving, generous and caring man whose motto was to be kind to others, Zarate intervened upon witnessing a young man grabbing a woman by the hair and beating her in the face. He did nothing more than tell the man to stop, which the man did, only to reach for his firearm and aim it directly at Zarate. The assailant, identified by police as 21-year-old Teles Mandan Juarez, discharged his gun, with one bullet traveling through the parking lot and critically injuring a woman who was not involved in the incident and one hitting Zarate in the neck, resulting in his death. The father of four was just 39-years-old.
Juarez immediately fled the scene but was followed by a police helicopter and effectively captured ten miles away. McManus told the press, “All [Zarate] did was verbally say, ‘Take your hands off her.’ At that point, the assailant pulled a firearm and started shooting.” Juarez is facing felony criminal charges of aggravated assault and retaliation, with a possible murder charge to follow.
Zarate’s wife Lisa Benavides learned of the shooting after leaving the store to wait at the curb for her husband to pull up; she saw police cars instead. As a huge crowd gathered, Benavides was unable to see what caused the commotion and asked a bystander what was happening. She was told someone had been shot, but that was all they knew. She could not see the cars in the parking lot and asked the same person if the victim was driving a Toyota Camry, which was the model of the family’s car. The bystander was able to catch a glimpse and confirmed it was, indeed, a Camry. It was at that moment Benavides says she knew it was her husband.
“I knew right then it was my car,” she said. “I started running. And I went underneath the line and they said, ‘You can’t go back there,’ and one of the cops grabbed me and said, “Who are you?’ I said ‘That’s my husband.’” Shaken and overwhelmed, she said she wasn’t surprised he died while trying to help and protect someone else. She referred to her husband as a giant teddy bear who believed in doing the right thing, no matter the cost, which in this instance, was his life.
She said, “Even though people treat you mean, he said you’ve always got to be nice. And he always said you’ve got to help people in the long run. It’s going to all come back to you.” Both had grown up poor and believed in giving back to those less fortunate, whether by providing leftover food to the hungry or whatever spare change they had to the poor.
Through a steady stream of tears, she said, “I don’t know what I’m going to do without him…We’ve always been together. I can’t believe he’s gone.” Zarate is survived by his wife and their four sons, who are now 17, 19, 20, and 23.
Especially in today’s society, which has become increasingly more violent and divided, reading about people willing to stand up and step in to make it less so who then lose their lives in the process is simply too sad for words. May Zarete and his family find the peace they deserve in the face of such a cruel twist of fate.