Report: Barrientes Vela used deputies to intimidate store manager who accused her son of shoplifting

Barrientes Vela’s son kicked out of a dollar store after manager recognized him from previous incident

SAN ANTONIO – Former Bexar County Precinct 2 Constable Michelle Barrientes Vela had deputies respond to a West Side discount store last winter and file an official complaint against its manager after the woman accused Barrientes Vela’s adult son of shoplifting, according to an incident report obtained by the Defenders and multiple sources within the agency.

The two-page report, released following an open records request made after Barrientes Vela was removed from office, shows the former constable and then deputies from her agency responded on Feb. 28 to a Family Dollar store in the 2100 block of S. Zarzamora St. hours after one of her relatives had been kicked out of the store.

Multiple sources have identified the relative as Barrientes Vela’s adult son.

Barrientes Vela remains under criminal investigation for a long list of incidents that took place during her nearly three years in office.

The store manager told deputies she forced the man to leave the shop after recognizing him as previously stealing shoes and deodorant.

The man left the location but then contacted Barrientes Vela, the report states.

Barrientes Vela responded to the store in full uniform hours later, and, according to the report, made a call via dispatch for back up.

Once on the scene, the supervisor who wrote the report was told that Barrientes Vela’s son wanted to file a complaint against the store’s manager for accusing him of shoplifting.

The report states Precinct 2 deputies repeatedly questioned the manager about why she had not reported the man to police when she first reportedly saw him take items.

The manager responded that officers take too long to respond to the store after a theft and that she instead preferred to simply kick out people accused of stealing.

After first saying she had pictures and video of the theft, the manager then said she would have to put in a request for them with the store’s corporate offices.

The report also states that deputies repeatedly asked if the manager was “positive” the man was the suspect from the previous incident.

“I mean I am pretty sure, I recognized his face when he walked in,” the manager told deputies, according to the report.

The man told deputies he had gone to the store for coffee creamer and agreed to exit the shop when the manager began yelling even though he claims he had never taken anything without paying.

A Family Dollar employee who spoke with the Defenders off camera said the manager in the report resigned this summer.

He was unable to provide contact information for the woman.

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

The incident capped off what has become, in hindsight, a tumultuous month for the former constable.

Last week, a Defenders investigation showed footage of Precinct 2 deputies lined up in front of a fellow deputy’s home and stripping him of his service weapon weeks after he filed paperwork to run against Barrientes Vela in the 2020 election.

The Feb. 4 incident at the West Side home of Deputy Leonicio Moreno is now the focus of a federal employment complaint against Barrientes Vela, as well as an ongoing criminal investigation targeting her and three members of her administration.

Nine days later, on Feb. 13, a 19-year-old San Antonio woman involved in a car crash had her blood drawn without Precinct 2 deputies first obtaining a search warrant and was nearly subjected to a cavity search, a sworn affidavit and EMS records obtained by the KSAT 12 Defenders show.

The woman was taken into custody after Barrientes Vela’s chief deputy thought he smelled marijuana coming from her and her wrecked vehicle.

The smell was later determined to be from the airbags of the woman’s vehicle being deployed, according to records.

The woman was never criminally charged for the incident.

The Texas Rangers and FBI raided Barrientes Vela’s North West side offices Sept. 23, seizing documents and other items during the 10-hour operation.

While her offices were being raided by federal authorities, Barrientes Vela told a KSAT reporter that she would no longer be running for another term as constable and instead decided to run for sheriff.

The public declaration triggered the state’s resign-to-run law and eventually caused the constable to be removed from office.

A search warrant from the raid made public late last month accuses Barrientes Vela and three members of her administration of official oppression, tampering with evidence and felony perjury.

The Family Dollar incident is not the first time Barrientes Vela has been accused of using agency resources to aid members of her immediate family.

Last month, a Defenders investigation revealed that Barrientes Vela ordered deputies from her agency to search for a luxury sport utility vehicle stolen from her husband’s used car lot late last year.

The used car lot and the street where the SUV was later recovered are both outside the former constable’s precinct, according to a Bexar County precinct map.

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