10 takeaways from the explosive search warrant for ex-Pct. 2 Constable Barrientes Vela
Texas Rangers: Barrientes Vela falsified records, destroyed documents
SAN ANTONIO – An explosive, 24-page search warrant obtained by the KSAT 12 Defenders on Tuesday outlines the growing criminal case against former Bexar County Precinct 2 Constable Michelle Barrientes Vela and members of her administration.
The recently unsealed warrant, stemming from a Sept. 23 raid of Barrientes Vela's Northwest Side offices by the Texas Rangers and FBI, confirms that she and three others have been under investigation since early May. Authorities seized and inventoried more than 70 items during the raid, the warrant shows.
The quartet is accused of crimes, including felony perjury, tampering with evidence and official oppression.
The warrant states that Barrientes Vela and three members of her administration withheld records from a subpoena, fabricated charging documents and forced a clerk to shred records related to payments for security at a public park.
Named in the warrant as suspects are Barrientes Vela, her former Chief Deputy Anthony Castillo, former Capt. Marc Garcia and former Lt. Jeremy Miner.
Miner and Garcia are currently on administrative leave. Castillo was fired by Barrientes Vela hours before she was removed from office earlier this month.
The 10 biggest takeaways from the warrant:
- Precinct 2 personnel stormed the property of Deputy Leonicio Moreno after he called in sick in February 2019 Much of the warrant focuses on the treatment of Moreno, Barrientes Vela's former training coordinator, whose unsteady tenure with Precinct 2 appeared to get rockier after he accused the then-constable late last year of attempting to caress him during a 2017 work trip. Weeks after filing suit against Barrientes Vela for the Galveston hot tub incident, Moreno filed to run against her in the 2020 election. Weeks later, in early February, Moreno called a Precinct 2 supervisor and said he was unable to come into work because he was sick. Hours later, five Precinct 2 deputies, including Garcia, Miner and one other supervisor, descended on Moreno's home for a reported welfare check, according to the warrant. Deputies took Moreno's county-issued firearm and claimed he had verbalized having "mental stress," the warrant states. Sources say Moreno was simply sick and that the incident was created by the administration as an attempt to make him look unfit for duty.
- The Precinct 2 report used to charge Moreno was fabricated The warrant is extremely critical of Garcia and the investigative report he used to have Moreno charged in late April with felony aggravated perjury. Garcia claimed that federal employment complaints filed by Moreno against his employer had caused an adverse effect on the agency's ability to serve the community and created a harmful environment for Precinct 2 personnel. However, the Ranger leading the criminal investigation wrote in the warrant that there was a lack of documentation, no factual basis to back up Garcia's claims and no connection between Moreno's complaints and Precinct 2 staff later receiving threatening messages.
- Texas Rangers believe Moreno was arrested because he decided run for Precinct 2 constable in 2020 The Ranger who wrote the warrant concluded that Moreno's decision to run for constable in 2020 directly lead to his arrest. While being interviewed by the Rangers, Garcia said he suggested to Barrientes Vela that the perjury case against Moreno should be forwarded to the Bexar County District Attorney's Office for review. Barrientes Vela responded that something needed to happen now and instructed Garcia to proceed with trying to get an arrest warrant.
- Deputies who arrested Moreno were told to delay booking him In late April, Precinct 2 deputies arrested Moreno for felony aggravated perjury. Footage obtained by the Defenders from jail security cameras showed deputies delayed booking Moreno nearly a half-hour, until the media was in place. The footage showed deputies remove Moreno after driving through the jail's Sally port, only to then put him back in the patrol vehicle and drive around the neighborhood surrounding the jail after one of the deputies received a phone call. When questioned by the Rangers, the deputies said they were instructed by supervisors to delay booking Moreno. Miner denied instructing them to do so, at which point the deputy replied that he had proof on his phone that Miner and Garcia had both called him with instructions while Moreno was in custody.
- Man at Rodriguez Park said Barrientes Vela, Castillo intimidated him into paying $300 for security The warrant also indicates that a man named Jesus Reyes is cooperating with the Rangers regarding an incident at Rodriguez Park last Easter. Reyes said when he arrived at the park, Barrientes Vela and her family were occupying the pavilion he rented. After Reyes notified park official about his reservation, Barrientes Vela and her family were told to move. Barrientes Vela and Castillo then returned and told Reyes he must pay $500 for security, according to the warrant. Reyes said he paid them $300 and was forced to leave at 7 p.m., even though he had reserved the pavilion until 11 p.m. Reyes said Barrientes Vela and Castillo intimidated him into paying the money.
- Precinct 2 employee said Barrientes Vela withheld documents from subpoena, made clerk destroy records In June, a clerk from Barrientes Vela's office contacted the Rangers and said she believed the then-constable was making up the security event schedule and changing the amount of money received by Precinct 2 for Rodriguez Park security. The clerk said Barrientes Vela told her to create a receipt for Reyes only to later tell her to tear it out of the receipt book. After the then-constable was served with a subpoena, the clerk was told to gather the security records and that if they were not in order, then Precinct 2 staff would visit her in jail, the warrant states. The clerk revealed that Barrientes Vela did not hand over all the documents requested in the subpoena; specifically the names, dates and times of officers who worked at Rodriguez Park. The clerk later handed over her own copy of these records to the Rangers. The clerk also said Barrientes Vela took home records related to the park and altered the cash logs, according to the warrant. The clerk was then told by Barrientes Vela to substitute the new record in place of the cash logs, the warrant states.
- Texas Rangers and FBI seized a form that read “shred documents related to Rodriguez Park” Among the 74 items seized by the Rangers and FBI from Barrientes Vela's offices was a counseling report form from late June that read "shred documents related to Rodriguez Park."
- Rangers and FBI also investigating warrantless blood draw incident The warrant also confirms that Precinct 2 personnel are under investigation for a February incident in Leon Valley in which a teenage car crash victim said her blood was drawn without her consent. The woman, Madison Huizar, was involved in a crash Feb. 13 in the intersection of Bandera Road and Timco West. After Castillo said he smelled marijuana coming from Huizar and her vehicle, Huizar signed a sworn affidavit stating her blood was drawn without a search warrant first being obtained. Records also show she was nearly subjected to a cavity search in the back of an ambulance. The smell was later determined to be from the airbags of Huizar's vehicle being deployed, according to Leon Valley records of the incident. Huizar was never criminally charged. Among the items seized during the Sept. 23 raid were two file folders of records from the crash, an assignment report, charge and disposition report, sworn statements and incident detail reports and "Huizar complaint related records."
- Barrientes Vela pressured DA to arrest Moreno for falsifying training records The district attorney's chief prosecutor told the Rangers that in the weeks leading up to Moreno's April arrest, Barrientes Vela had repeatedly reached out about the status of another criminal case against Moreno. The then-constable asked that the case be sent to the Texas Attorney General for prosecution instead of remaining with the DA's Office. The Ranger was listening while one of the calls took place.
- Texas Rangers and FBI seized shredded paper Not only did the Rangers and FBI seize a form that said shred documents, but they also seized actual shredded documents. The shredded paper is item 26 on the FBI's receipt for property list from the raid.
WATCH A VIDEO TIMELINE OF SOME OF THE INCIDENTS:
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