‘Harassed and retaliated against‘: Precinct 2 deputy confronted at home, stripped of service weapon after filing to run against Barrientes Vela

February 2019 incident key part of Texas Rangers investigation of Barrientes Vela, administration

SAN ANTONIO – Bexar County Precinct 2 deputies lined up in front of a fellow deputy’s home and stripped him of his service weapon weeks after he filed paperwork to run against their boss in the 2020 election, cellphone camera footage obtained by the KSAT 12 Defenders shows.

The February 2019 incident at the West Side home of Deputy Leonicio Moreno is now the focus of a federal employment complaint against Michelle Barrientes Vela, as well as an ongoing criminal investigation targeting the former Precinct 2 constable and three members of her administration.

The Defenders were provided the footage from a source familiar with the ongoing criminal investigation.

In the clip, Moreno, dressed in civilian clothes, walks from his front door to his front gate and then hands over his service weapon inside a manila envelope.

Moreno’s supervisor, identified as Sgt. Gilbert Duquette, asks Moreno if he has any questions and then leaves with five other Precinct 2 deputies who were standing outside of patrol vehicles lining the front of the property.

On voicemails also obtained by the Defenders, Duquette told Moreno hours earlier that he must come in to work that day even though he had called in sick.

“I am advised to tell you that you are still scheduled to come back to work after you left your interview. Stress is considered not, but give us a call, show up here back at the precinct,” said Duquette.

A letter detailing the incident states that Duquette called Moreno three times within three minutes, twice leaving him voicemails and also showed up his home about an hour later.

The letter indicates that Moreno then called Bexar County Human Resources and informed an official that members of his agency were harassing him after he had taken a sick day.

The letter then indicates that Lt. Jeremy Miner called and texted Moreno and after Moreno called back Miner, Moreno also briefly spoke again with Duquette.

Moments later, according to the letter, five patrol vehicles from Precinct 2 pulled up to Moreno’s home and six deputies got out.

Moreno then walked outside and was told by Duquette that he needed to surrender his service weapon.

After Moreno retrieved the weapon, the footage shows him hand it over to Duquette.

Miner and Capt. Marc Garcia, both of whom are now under criminal investigation, are seen in the footage standing behind Duquette.

According to the letter, Garcia created a call for the incident and described the encounter as “welfare check/retrieve county firearm from distraught employee.”

Sources says Barrientes Vela orchestrated the incident as an attempt to make Moreno look unfit for duty.

The letter states the spectacle left Moreno feeling “harassed and retaliated against.”

Records show three days after Moreno’s service weapon was seized, he was placed on administrative investigative leave.

Duquette no longer works for Precinct 2 and has moved on to work for another local law enforcement agency, according to sources.

Incident featured prominently in Texas Rangers warrant

A Texas Rangers warrant connected to a Sept. 23 raid of Barrientes Vela’s Northwest Side offices was made public last week, and confirms that Barrientes Vela, Garcia, Miner and former Precinct 2 Chief Deputy Anthony Castillo are the targets of a wide-reaching criminal investigation that started in early May.

The quartet is being investigated for official oppression, tampering with evidence and perjury.

The incident at Moreno’s home is described in great detail in the warrant.

A timeline included in the warrant points out that Moreno was stripped of his service weapon less than a month after he filed paperwork to run for Precinct 2 constable in 2020.

In late February, Moreno was ordered by Miner to sign paperwork indicating that he wished to request time off until the November 2020 election was finished, according to the timeline.

Moreno told Miner he did not want to make the request and was instructed that he must follow the order, the warrant states.

Arrested for running for public office

Moreno was arrested by fellow Precinct 2 deputies on April 30 after Garcia filed a criminal complaint against him, accusing Moreno of committing aggravated perjury by filing EEOC complaints against Barrientes Vela and the constable’s office that prevented the agency from carrying out its law enforcement responsibilities.

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.

Surveillance video obtained by the Defenders this summer showed deputies delayed booking Moreno for nearly a half hour until the media arrived at the jail.

When questioned by the Rangers, the deputies who arrested Moreno said they were instructed by supervisors to delay booking him. Miner denied instructing them to do so, at which point one deputy replied that he had proof on his phone that Miner and Garcia had both called him with instructions while Moreno was in custody.

The Ranger who wrote the search warrant concluded that Moreno was arrested because he was Barrientes Vela’s political opponent and because he had filed a lawsuit against her in federal court.

Barrientes Vela, who originally announced plans this summer to seek another term as constable, changed her mind and announced to a KSAT 12 reporter that she would instead run for sheriff in 2020.

That announcement, which came as the Rangers and FBI were wrapping up the 10-hour raid at her offices, triggered the state’s resign-to-run law.

Despite filing of a lawsuit in an attempt to block county officials from replacing her, Barrientes Vela was removed from office Oct. 9.

Moreno did not respond to a request for comment for this story.

A spokesman for Precinct 2 confirmed that Moreno was returned to duty after Barrientes Vela was removed from office last month.

Barrientes Vela did not respond to a request for comment for this story.

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.

Joshua Saunders is an Emmy-nominated photographer/editor who has worked in the San Antonio market for the past 20 years. Joshua works in the Defenders unit, covering crime and corruption throughout the city.

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