Sheriff investigating erroneous inmate releases as potential sabotage by frustrated jail staff

At least nine inmates mistakenly released since December

SAN ANTONIO – Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar confirmed on Friday his office is investigating whether some of the mistaken inmate releases that have hampered his agency the past eight months were intentional.

"Can I honestly say that some of these haven't been done on purpose, to make the agency look bad? I can't say that, quite frankly. And we're looking at that with that in mind," said Salazar.

The revelation came during a lengthy interview on morale issues within the jail, which has seen a large number of resignations in recent months.

Thirty detention officers alone separated from the jail during May, the highest single-month total since January 2018, according to figures released by BCSO on Friday.

"Are there people there that desperately want to see me go away? Probably, yes. They're not fans of the changes that I've made to the agency. They're not fans of some of the people I've promoted to be my command staff," said Salazar.

But Friday was the first time Salazar or officials from within his agency publicly acknowledged that gaffes inside the jail could have been done on purpose.

The Deputy Sheriffs Association of Bexar County fired back in a statement, calling on Salazar to apologize for suggesting that detention staff would make the erroneous releases purposely.

"It's time for the sheriff to stop making excuses for his failed leadership by whining to the press," the group said in a statement. "He needs to hold himself accountable and be the leader we expected him to be when we endorsed him in 2016. Finally, the DSABC demands that Sheriff Salazar apologize to the hard working and understaffed men and women who work in detention and law enforcement for placing blame on them instead of where it belongs, on him!"

Salazar said the facility's antiquated records system, which includes handwritten notes on an inmate's status, is not helping the process of tracking when someone should be released.

However, he said the agency is investigating whether some of the mistaken releases have been more than honest mistakes.

The Defenders have been unable to find any BCSO suspensions or terminations that involved detention staff knowingly releasing inmates who should have remained in the jail.

Mistakenly released from custody

At least nine Bexar County Jail inmates have been released improperly since December, according to records compiled by the KSAT 12 Defenders.

These releases include erroneous ones due to clerical errors, as well as inmates let out even though they had active warrants in other counties.

Last month, BCSO officials blamed the San Antonio Police Department for failing to inform them that a suspect in custody had a parole violation. SAPD officials pushed back on accepting the blame, however, pointing out that the suspect remained in BCSO custody for 13 hours after the warrant was discovered.

Asked whether jail administrator Avery Walker was still the best person for the job, Salazar said, "He is right now."

"Am I happy with all of his decisions? No. But my 1.8 million bosses out on the streets of Bexar County aren't always happy with every decision that I make," said Salazar.

Click here if you are unable to see the timeline of incidents at the jail below:

About the Authors:

Emmy-award winning reporter Dillon Collier joined KSAT Investigates in September 2016. Dillon's investigative stories air weeknights on the Nightbeat and on the Six O'Clock News. Dillon is a two-time Houston Press Club Journalist of the Year and a Texas Associated Press Broadcasters Reporter of the Year.