SAN BENITO — A city administrator and former lawman will serve as interim police chief to lead an investigation into police officers’ fatal shooting of a 21-year-old San Benito man.
Last night, city commissioners met for an hour in closed session with attorneys before appointing Fred Bell, assistant to the city manager, to replace Police Chief Michael Galvan to oversee the police department’s Internal Affairs Bureau investigation into whether Galvan and two other officers followed policy during the pursuit and shooting of Ricardo Treviño in El Ranchito Dec. 7.
Bell takes the job today, City Manager Manuel De La Rosa told a small audience that included April Flores, Treviño’s mother.
Commissioners also authorized De La Rosa to hire two certified law enforcement officers to help conduct the investigation.
In most cases, the police chief oversees internal affairs investigations, attorney Ricardo Navarro, appointed by the Texas Municipal League to represent the city, said Monday.
However, he said, Galvan could not oversee the investigation because he was involved in the shooting.
Galvan, a 19-year department veteran who has served as chief for more than two years, “agreed to step down as police chief so that an interim chief may be appointed to oversee the internal affairs investigation,” the city stated in a press release.
Galvan will take the position of assistant police chief, Navarro said Monday.
After the investigation, he said, Bell will determine whether to discipline the officers involved in the shooting.
Based on the results of the investigation, he said, De La Rosa will determine whether to reinstate Galvan to the position of police chief.
“If he’s exonerated in IA, the city manager can decide whether he goes back to bring chief,” Navarro said.
The subjects of the investigation also include Manuel Alvarez, Victor Espitia, Oscar Lara, David Rebolledo and Jose Santos, the press release stated.
“The officers in question shall remain on limited active duty status pending the completion of the internal affairs investigation and, if applicable, the city manager’s decision and/or Civil Service board ruling,” the press release stated.
“If at the conclusion of the city’s internal affairs investigation the interim chief of police determines that disciplinary action is warranted, that action, if any, will be filed with the Civil Service Commission pursuant to the law, rules and regulations and those charges would be subject to public disclosure,” the press release stated.
“Until that time, the officers in question shall be treated as being innocent of policy violations and remain on active duty status.”
Navarro described the internal affairs investigation as “standard procedure.”
“That’s the standard procedure to make sure the police acted pursuant to policy,” Navarro said before last night’s meeting. “Anytime you have a law enforcement shooting incident or somebody killed or hurt, there’s an inquiry.”
The investigation will determine whether officers followed policy during “the engagement, the pursuit and the final use of force,” Navarro said.
Bell, who was hired as the city’s planning director in 2016, has served as assistant to the city manager for more than a year.
Before taking the job at City Hall, Bell had served in law enforcement through most of his career.
During his law enforcement career, Bell, who holds an active master’s police officer’s license, served as police chief in Arcola, south of Houston; patrol sergeant and detective with the Sunset Valley Police Department; first line supervisor with the Austin school district; and as a deputy sheriff.
Bell holds a master of science degree and a bachelor of applied arts and sciences degree from Texas State University-San Marcos and an associate’s degree in criminal justice from Austin Community College.
Bell was certified as a peace officer through the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office Training Academy in 1991.
Navarro said Lt. Martin Morales, a former police chief who is in charge of the Internal Affairs Bureau, will not oversee the investigation because Galvan supervises him.
Officials searched for “someone who doesn’t work for the chief,” Navarro said.
Navarro said the city had planned to launch the internal affairs investigation after the Texas Rangers complete their criminal investigation into the case.
Officials were counting on using the Texas Rangers’ evidence as part of the internal affairs investigation, Navarro said.
However, officials decided to launch the investigation before the Texas Rangers complete their investigation to avoid missing a Civil Service deadline, Navarro said.
According to Civil Service law, he said, internal affairs investigations must be launched within 180 days of the incident.
Now, it appears the Texas Rangers’ investigation might not be completed by next month, as has been expected, he said.
Since the shooting, the Texas Rangers have been investigating whether the officers had justifiable cause to use deadly force.
Now, the police department’s internal affairs bureau will investigate whether police followed policy during their “engagement” with Treviño, their pursuit of his car and the shooting, Navarro said.
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.
About a half hour before the shooting, Treviño used his cell phone to record the events leading up to the shooting.
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.
As police pursued Treviño’s car, Art Flores, his stepfather, was calling dispatchers to tell them police were chasing his stepson.
The Texas Rangers are also investigating whether officers fired at Treviño’s car during the pursuit from San Benito to El Ranchito, where he led law enforcement units to a cul-de-sac off Ranch Park Road.
The Texas Rangers’ preliminary investigation found Treviño used his car as a weapon.
Treviño’s video apparently shows him parking his car.
Moments later, the video shows Treviño, who was unarmed, sitting in his car amid a barrage of gunfire at about 3:30 p.m.