Petition calls for removal of San Benito police chief

Petitioners claim shooting spurs mistrust in San Benito force

SAN BENITO — April Flores fought back tears Tuesday night when she told city commissioners her son’s death shattered her trust in the police department.

It was the reason she said she signed a petition calling for the removal of Police Chief Michael Galvan.

She wasn’t the only one to sign it.

A group of residents presented city commissioners with the petition claiming Galvan “ignored current policies and procedures” during events leading up to the Dec. 7 fatal shooting of Ricardo Treviño, 21, whom police officers repeatedly shot after a car chase ended in El Ranchito.

“Trust has been broken,” Flores said during the public comment period of Tuesday’s meeting.

“I stand here before you to let you know that I continue to pray for you and your families including the five officers who took my son’s life that day,” Flores told commissioners.

She referred to three San Benito policemen and two other law enforcement officers who shot her son, who was unarmed.

“May your families never have to endure the pain I will live with for the rest of my life from having to randomly call my son to remind me he is no longer here,” Flores said. “My son’s blood is upon your hands. I continue to pray for justice.”

Yesterday, Ben Cortez, a former San Benito resident living in Harlingen who presented City Secretary Ruth McGinnis with the petition, stated at least 70 residents had signed the petition so far.

“Police Chief Galvan did not go by policies and procedures of the police manual,” Cortez told commissioners during the meeting.

Cortez also said City Manager Manuel De La Rosa failed to discipline Galvan for allegedly violating policies and procedures surrounding the police pursuit of Ricardo Treviño’s car from San Benito to El Ranchito and the fatal shooting.

“The blame should also be directed to the city manager who took no action to reprimand Chief Michael Galvan, allowing him to continue with violations of policies and procedures,” Cortez said.

Galvan and De La Rosa did not respond to messages requesting comment.

Following the incident, Galvan and officers involved in the shooting were placed on administrative desk duty in accordance with policies and procedures, city spokeswoman Martha McClain stated at the time.

Lynne Pare, president of Keep San Benito Beautiful, told commissioners the shooting had broken some of the community’s trust in the police department.

“Maybe the trust in the San Benito Police Department has dissolved to such a point that people feel uncomfortable calling and asking for help from those who swore an oath to serve and protect,” Pare, who did not sign the petition, said as she used a cell phone to record the meeting.

“We voted you in with confidence that you would take care of our best interests as citizens — to protect us, to serve us, to help us, to make us proud to be San Benito citizens,” she said. “It’s very hard right now.”

The petition marks the second in nearly two years in which Galvan’s leadership has been questioned.

In May 2017, eight San Benito police officers presented Mayor Ben Gomez with a petition expressing “no confidence” in Galvan’s leadership as the city investigated his private recordings of conversations which had been downloaded at the public library and leaked into the community.

The investigation found no wrongdoing.

Investigations

For weeks, some residents have called on commissioners to take action against officers involved in Ricardo Treviño’s shooting.

In response, Ricardo Navarro, an attorney assigned by the Texas Municipal League to represent the city, has told residents the city is waiting for the Texas Rangers to complete an investigation into the shooting.

After the Texas Ranger’s investigation, the city’s Civil Service commission and the police department’s internal affairs unit are expected to investigate the shooting, Navarro has said.

About a half hour before the shooting, Ricardo Treviño used his cell phone to record the events leading up to the shooting.

At about 3 p.m. Dec. 7, Treviño drove away from a San Benito church after his cousin called for an ambulance because he had taken too many Tylenol pills.

When Treviño saw police following him, he began recording the 12-minute chase down Interstate 69 and onto U.S. 281, where he led about eight law enforcement units to El Ranchito.

The Texas Rangers are also investigating whether officers fired at Treviño’s car during the pursuit from San Benito to El Ranchito, where officers repeatedly shot him moments after he parked off Ranch Park Road at about 3:30 p.m.

As police pursued Treviño’s car, Art Flores, his stepfather who works as a supervisor with the San Benito Police Department, was calling dispatchers to tell them police were chasing his stepson.