A grand jury in Texas has decided not to indict a father who beat to death a man he found allegedly sexually abusing his young daughter.
"Under the law, deadly force is justified to stop a sexual assault," Lavaca County District Attorney Heather McMinn said on Tuesday at a press conference announcing the grand jury's decision. "All the evidence presented by the sheriff's department and the Texas Rangers indicated that was in fact what was occurring when the victim's father arrived at the scene."
McMinn added: "The substantial amount of evidence showed that the witness statements and the father's statement and what the father had observed was in fact what had happened that day."
Jesus Mora Flores was beaten to death on June 9 in Shiner, Texas, after the 23-year-old father allegedly discovered the 47-year-old Flores in a pasture on the family's ranch on top of his 5-year-old daughter with his pants and underwear down. (News organizations, including Yahoo News, are not naming the father in order to protect the identity of his daughter.)
A witness who saw Flores—a Mexican who legally worked at the ranch—"forcibly carrying" the girl into a secluded area of the property alerted the father, who followed his daughter's screams to the pasture, pulled Flores off her, and "inflicted several blows to the man's head and neck area."
After beating Flores, the father called 911.
"I need an ambulance," the father told the dispatcher, according to 911 tapes released by police. "This guy was raping my daughter and I beat him up and I don't know what to do. This guy is fixing to die on me, man, and I don't know what to do."
"Come on! This guy is going to die on me!" he continued during the frantic, five-minute call. "I don't know what to do!"
Emergency workers, as well as the daughter's grandfather and aunt, tried to revive Flores but could not. Lavaca County Sheriff Micah Harmon said he found the distraught father crying, saying that he had not intended to kill Flores.
"He's a peaceable soul," V'Anne Huser, the father's attorney, said. "He had no intention to kill anybody that day."
The case has sparked a debate about whether the killing was justified.
"There are those ... who feel that as abominable as the actions of Flores were, he did not deserve a death sentence delivered through vigilante justice," Diane Fanning wrote on Forbes.com. "If I found a half-naked man on top of my 5-year-old daughter, I might not have the strength to kill him. But I do know I would jump on his back and try to rip his eyes right out of his head."
A Time magazine reader even suggested "lifetime free passes to Disneyland" should be awarded to the father for protecting his child: "Touch a kid. Die. Done."
Local residents in Shiner—which has a population of about 2,000—supported the father, too.
"I think it was a good decision," Lamont Matthews told the Victoria (Texas) Advocate. "I would have done the same thing."
"The father has gone through enough," Gail Allen, another resident, told The Associated Press. "The little girl is going to be traumatized for life, and the father, too, for what happened. He was protecting his family. Any parent would do that."
"It's sad a man had to die," Michael James Veit said. "But I think anybody would have done that."
"In our opinion," Huser said Tuesday, "the story is over."