SAN BENITO — Two Austin law enforcement veterans are leading a San Benito Police Department investigation into officers involved in the Dec. 7 fatal shooting of a 21-year-old local man.
Bruce Mills, a former Austin Police Department assistant chief, and Mary Hesalroad, a former Austin police sergeant, are investigating six San Benito police officers involved in the shooting of Ricardo Treviño, who was unarmed when he was repeatedly shot after a chase.
“I am confident that the law enforcement officials leading this probe are true investigative professionals who will find the answers we are all seeking,” City Manager Manuel De La Rosa stated March 29 after the police department launched the internal affairs investigation.
Since Treviño’s death, the Texas Rangers have been investigating whether officers were justified in using deadly force.
Meanwhile, the internal affairs investigation will look into whether officers followed policy and procedures during events leading up to the shooting.
“I extend condolences to the family of Ricardo Treviño and hope that the results of the investigation now under way will ultimately bring some closure in this matter,” De La Rosa stated.
On 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 he saw police cars following his red Nissan, he led officers on a 12-minute chase down Interstate 69 to U.S. 281, where officers repeatedly shot him after he stopped off Ranch Park Road.
City commissioners hired Mills and Hesalroad to investigate whether police officers followed policies and procedures during the pursuit of Treviño’s car and his shooting in El Ranchito.
“They’re qualified to do the work,” attorney Ricardo Navarro, who was assigned by the Texas Municipal League to represent the city, said yesterday. “They’ve done this kind of outside work for other cities. They’ve been in this situation where someone from the outside needs to be brought it.”
Commissioners also appointed Fred Bell, assistant to the city manager, to serve as the interim chief who is overseeing the investigation.
Meanwhile, officials reassigned Police Chief Michael Galvan to the position of assistant chief.
Galvan was removed as police chief because his involvement in the shooting prevented him from overseeing the investigation, Navarro said before the reassignment.
However, April Flores, Treviño’s mother who is married to San Benito police Supervisor Art Flores, questioned whether Bell knew Mills and Hesalroad before they were hired.
Flores said she believes if Bell, who had worked in law enforcement for the Austin school district, knew Mills and Hesalroad they could not conduct an impartial investigation.
“My concern is they’re trying to keep it in their circle,” April Flores said, referring to the investigation.
Yesterday, Bell did not respond to an email questioning whether he knew Mills and Hesalroad before they were hired.
Navarro also did not comment on the question of whether Bell knew the investigators.
“There is no need for me to respond to what you are saying,” he stated.
Working on deadline
The city had planned to launch the internal affairs investigation after the Texas Rangers complete their criminal investigation into the case, Navarro has said.
Officials, he said, were counting on using the Texas Rangers’ evidence as part of the internal affairs investigation.
However, officials decided to launch the investigation before the Texas Rangers complete their probe 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 this month, as has been expected, he said.
Navarro has described the internal affairs investigation as “standard procedure” following such incidents as shootings involving police officers.
Since the shooting, the Texas Rangers have been investigating whether the officers had justifiable cause to use deadly force.
The investigation will determine whether officers followed policy during “the engagement, the pursuit and the final use of force,” Navarro said.
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.
As part of their investigation, Mills and Hesalroad are expected to interview Galvan and other officers involved in the shooting, including Manuel Alvarez, Victor Espitia, Oscar Lara, David Rebolledo and Jose Santos.
“I’m satisfied the investigation is moving forward with some focus — that all documents the investigators need to look at or review will be provided,” Navarro said yesterday.
Hesalroad, who has served with the Austin Police Department’s internal affairs division, is performing “the main leg work,” according to Navarro.
In Del Rio, Hesalroad investigated a fatal shooting involving 10 officers, she states on her resume.
“I’ve checked in with her to make sure she is getting what she needs to get,” he said. “She’s already established a rapport with the command staff and is getting what she needs.”
Based on the investigation’s results, Bell will determine whether to discipline the officers involved in the shooting, Navarro has said.
“The interim chief will have what he needs to make his decision,” he said yesterday.
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 appears to show 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.
Who are they?
Consultant with Public Sector Solutions
Retired as Austin Police Department assistant police chief after 27-year career
Holds master’s of science degree in criminal justice administration from Southwest Texas State University
Holds bachelor of liberal studies in criminal justice from Saint Edwards University
Independent workplace investigator
Served from patrol officer to sergeant of internal affairs with the Austin Police Department
Studied journalism at Texas A&M University
Affiliations include National Internal Affairs Investigators Association