City mulls leadership changes

Officials tight-lipped over ex-police chief’s status

SAN BENITO — Assistant City Manager Fred Bell might be wearing a new hat soon.

Since March, he’s been wearing the hat of acting police chief.

That’s when city Manager Manuel De La Rosa appointed him to replace former Police Chief Michael Galvan, who was reassigned as the police department launched an investigation into Galvan and five other officers involved in the death of Ricardo Treviño, 21, who was unarmed when he was repeatedly shot Dec. 7.

On Tuesday, city commissioners are expected to consider appointing Bell to the position of emergency management coordinator, a job that Galvan now apparently holds.

City officials are mum about the proposed appointment.

At City Hall, De La Rosa did not respond to an email requesting comment on the proposal.

Meanwhile, Galvan’s status is unclear.

Attorney Ricardo Navarro, whom the Texas Municipal League assigned to represent the city in the case surrounding Treviño’s death, did not respond to a message requesting comment on Galvan’s employment.

Navarro has declined to disclose whether Galvan has been placed on administrative leave pending a Texas Rangers investigation expected to determine whether he and other officers were justified in using deadly force.

Alex Guajardo, Galvan’s attorney, has said city officials have ordered his client to withhold comment.

The investigation

In late March, city officials launched the internal affairs investigation, appointing Bell, whose background includes a career in law enforcement, to serve as interim police chief while reassigning Galvan to assistant chief.

Galvan, a 19-year department veteran who had served as chief for more than two years, was removed as police chief because his involvement in the shooting prevented him from overseeing the investigation, Navarro said before the reassignment.

Officials also hired Bruce Mills, a former Austin Police Department assistant chief, and Mary Hesalroad, a former Austin police sergeant, to lead the investigation to determine whether officers followed policy and procedures during the events leading to Treviño’s shooting.

Navarro has described the internal affairs investigation as “standard procedure” following such incidents as shootings involving police officers.

Earlier this month, officials completed the investigation into Galvan, who served as chief at the time of the shooting, and officers Manuel Alvarez, Victor Espitia, Oscar Lara, David Rebolledo and Jose Santos.

Discipline

After the investigation’s completion, Bell ordered one officer, whose name was withheld, suspended for five days.

Meanwhile, city officials are apparently considering disciplinary action against two other officers while waiting for the Texas Rangers to complete their investigation.

Bell has requested the state Attorney General’s Office to allow the city to keep open its investigation, which operated under a 180-day time frame, until the Texas Rangers complete their probe.

“With respect to two of the officers involved, Chief Bell has issued letters to the attorney general under the authority of Section 143.056(H), Texas Local Government Code, so as to maintain the internal affairs investigation open beyond the 180-day deadline and pending completion of the criminal investigation by the Texas Department of Public Safety — Texas Rangers,” a city press release states.

The Local Government Code’s Section 143.056(H) gives Bell more time to consider disciplinary action against the two officers, whose names were withheld.

“The department head may order an indefinite suspension based on an act classified as a felony or a Class A or B misdemeanor after the 180-day period … if the department head considers delay to be necessary to protect a criminal investigation of the person’s conduct,” the law states.

“If the department head intends to order an indefinite suspension after the 180-day period, the department head must file with the attorney general a statement describing the criminal investigation and its objectives within 180 days after the date the act complained of occurred.”

While the Texas Rangers investigate whether officers were justified in using deadly force, the internal affairs probe focused on whether they violated the police department’s policies and procedures.

What happened

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.

His mother, April Flores, describes her son as a San Benito High School special education student “with the heart of a child.”

After graduating in 2014, he was studying mechanics at Texas State Technical College, she said.

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

When he saw police following him, Treviño 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 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.