SAN BENITO — A month after a grand jury found officers justified in the fatal shooting of a 21-year-old man, former Police Chief Michael Galvan is back in the police department — as a lieutenant.
Yesterday, interim Chief Fred Bell “reassigned” Galvan to lieutenant, his rank before he was named police chief about three years ago, Martha McClain, the city’s spokeswoman, stated.
Galvan returned after spending about four months on paid administrative leave pending completion of a nine-month Texas Rangers criminal investigation into the Dec. 7, 2018, fatal shooting of Ricardo Treviño.
“Lt. Galvan will oversee specific assignments and tasks and may have supervisory authority over divisions and staff,” McClain.
Based on the findings of the Texas Rangers investigation, a Cameron County grand jury last month found Galvan, officer David Rebolledo and two Precinct 5 deputy constables were justified in using deadly force to shoot Treviño, who was unarmed, when officers repeatedly shot him after a 22-mile chase ended in El Ranchito.
Meanwhile, Alex Guajardo, Galvan’s attorney, said he’s demanding officials reinstate Galvan as police chief.
At the police department, some officers seemed stunned when Galvan walked into the police department as a lieutenant yesterday.
“Certain people had a feeling this was going to happen and we weren’t happy about it,” police Supervisor Art Flores, who is Treviño’s stepfather, said, referring to Galvan’s reassignment to a lieutenant’s rank.
“I don’t want to see him. I really don’t,” Flores said after working a night shift. “I’m working graveyard so there’s less of a chance I see him. It’s very tough for me to work there.”
Officials’ decision to reassign Galvan to lieutenant doesn’t constitute disciplinary action, Flores said.
“I’m just very disappointed in the city. They haven’t punished this man,” Flores said. “Bringing him back as lieutenant is not punishment. They punish people for doing less. They could have busted him down to patrolman. What’s more alarming now is he’s going to get a gun and badge again. There’s a liability putting him back in a leadership position.”
City Commissioner Rick Guerra said Civil Service laws protect Galvan’s employment.
“He’s still protected under Civil Service,” Guerra said. “He still has that due process. He still has to be given a chance. We can’t just hang him out there.”
Attorney calls for Galvan’s reinstatement as chief
In March, city officials named Bell interim police chief, appointing Galvan assistant chief as they launched an internal affairs investigation to determine whether officers involved in the shooting followed policy and procedure during events leading to Treviño’s shooting.
Then in June, Galvan was placed on paid administrative leave.
After the completion of the Texas Rangers investigation, city officials were considering whether disciplinary action was warranted in the cases of Galvan and Rebolledo.
“The city will now have thirty days from today’s date to make a final decision about whether to pursue disciplinary process for internal policy violations, if any,” city officials stated in a press release issued following the grand jury’s decision Sept. 18.
As part of the city’s collective bargaining agreement, any disciplinary process “shall remain privileged and confidential,” the press release stated.
According to a Sept. 19 press release, Guajardo and his law firm “demand with full force and effect that the city reinstate Chief Michael Galvan back to full duty as city of San Benito police chief with all rank and privileges and seniority that he possessed prior to this incident.”
The attorneys also “highly urge the city not to recommit to inadvertently punish Chief Galvan and officer Rebolledo, who have been placed on administrative leave for more than three months and administrative desk duties before for having exercised their proper training and duty.”
“For the city to impose a harsh penalty against Chief Galvan and officer Rebolledo for having diligently served the city and protected the community from harm would characterize a gross misjudgment by the city that fundamentally places Chief Galvan and officer Rebolledo at a severe due process disadvantage.”
After grand jurors handed down their decision, District Attorney Luis Saenz said Treviño led officers on a car pursuit outside a San Benito church after his cousin called the police department because he had taken as much as half a bottle of Tylenol.
Saenz said speeds ranged from 40, 60 to 104 mph as Treviño recorded the 22-minute car chase along Interstate 69, FM 732 and U.S. 281.
Meanwhile, Galvan set up roadblocks to try to stop Treviño’s Nissan Sentra, even trying to fire at his tires.
During the pursuit, Flores was calling police dispatchers, telling them police were chasing his stepson’s car.
After Treviño led about 10 law enforcement units to a cul-de-sac off Ranch Park Road, he “collided” with Galvan’s car, Saenz said.
“He puts his car in forward and collides with Chief Galvan’s car, I mean forceful and he’s like trying to push it back, his tires are spinning and spinning. He can’t,” Saenz told reporters after the grand jury’s decision. “Then he puts it in reverse and goes all the way back and that’s where there are officers behind and that’s when the shooting breaks out.”
Flores said his stepson’s car shows only a dent.
Meanwhile, a photograph of the shooting scene shows Treviño’s red Sentra in a ditch.
Treviño’s video appears to show him parking his car.
Moments later, the video shows Treviño sitting in his car amid a barrage of gunfire at about 3:30 p.m.
Saenz said officers fired 31 rounds.