Jorge Combs helped his 4-year-old niece, Lia, write a note to her daddy and placed it inside a balloon Tuesday night, and after the balloon was filled with air, they let it go and watched it drift toward heaven.
“She knows her daddy’s an angel now,” Combs said.
“There are bad people and there are good people and there are good people who make mistakes. That was my brother.”
Combs brother, Justin Beltran, 26, died early Sunday after confronting Denton police with an AK-47 assault rifle.
When he did not drop the weapon as officers were commanding and continued to point it in the direction of one of the officers, a second officer fired one shot, police said at the time.
He was taken by CareFlite helicopter to a Plano hospital where he was pronounced dead.
On Tuesday night, about 200 people gathered in front of his workplace on University Drive to have a candlelight vigil for him.
The Texas Rangers are investigating the shooting and have declined comment until after the investigation is complete.
Denton Police Chief Lee Howell said Thursday that he expects that to happen in about a week and he hopes the case will go before the grand jury for routine review in three to four weeks.
“Until then, I’ve been asked not to release any details because it might hinder the investigation,” Howell said.
Combs said his family moved to Denton about 10 years ago. His father, Leopoldo Beltran, was a church pastor, he said, and the children grew up in church.
Justin Beltran and his girlfriend, their two children and her son lived in a duplex on Dunes Street. The early morning trouble Sunday started there.
Beltran’s birthday was July 3, five days earlier. But Combs said Beltran and some friends were celebrating at a Lewisville restaurant that night before he came home and fired a shot from the assault rifle. Combs said the AK-47 belonged to his brother.
That rifle can hold either a 30-round or 40-round magazine, according to information from sales websites. It fires .30-caliber ammunition capable of penetrating body armor.
In 2005 during a standoff with a Denton County man, a state trooper was injured as bullets went through the engine and passenger compartments and out the back of the squad car.
On Sunday, neighbors called police at about 2:30 a.m. when they heard a shot fired, police said. Officers arrived as Beltran and another man were leaving in a car.
A woman at the scene said Beltran was angry, according to statements released by police at the time. Later, other people said he was simply firing a celebratory shot because of his birthday.
Two officers followed the car as it drove north on Sherman Drive and then exited at Hartlee Field Road. When the car turned into a driveway and stopped, the officers immediately exited their cars and began shouting at the driver to put his hands out the window. That didn’t happen. Beltran then allegedly exited the car holding the rifle and refused to drop the weapon.
“I know Justin ran from the cops,” Combs said. “He drank but there was no way he was drunk. He was a good person. I just want people to know.”
Beltran had two convictions for family violence assault. In August 2010, police responded to a 911 call at an apartment where the family lived on Joyce Street. The girlfriend, Hope Serna, told the officers they argued after he bought beer.
“Serna advised that when Beltran begins drinking he turns violent,” the police report stated.
She and her 7-year-old son said that he pushed them down and held them down by their throats and held a knife in front of their faces, according to the report. In January 2011, police again responded to the family home. Serna told officers that day that he was intoxicated when she got home, kicked in the bathroom door when she sheltered there, and squeezed her throat.
Beltran pleaded guilty to one charge and no contest to the other and was placed on probation both times.
Combs said he believes that police did not have to shoot his brother. There is an online petition with about 1,000 names on it protesting the shooting, he said.
“I don’t know what went on in that house but he got scared,” Combs said. “He would not harm anybody. He was a good father. He loved them kids. We have to bury my little brother and do this right. After he’s buried, people are going to think different about this. It’s going to get bigger.”
DONNA FIELDER can be reached at 940-566-6885. Her e-mail address is email@example.com .