Schertz cop in Zekee Rayford arrest previously suspended for botched arrest, records show

Officer Frank Chavarria walked into woman’s home without probable cause, arrested her on DWI charge

Schertz Police Officer Frank Chavarria was previously suspended for a wrongful arrest during his time with the Converse Police Department. (KSAT)

A Converse woman had already been home when Officer Frank Chavarria opened the front door and ordered her to step outside on April 19, 2019.

After physically pulling her out of the home, Chavarria attempted to book her in jail for driving while intoxicated, but the charge was quickly rejected for lack of probable cause.

The incident during Chavarria’s stint with the Converse Police Department was revealed in personnel records obtained by the KSAT Defenders this week. Chavarria, who resigned from that department in September, had only been with the Schertz Police Department for one month before being part of another internal investigation due to the violent arrest of Zekee Rayford, a Black teen who was kicked and shocked by Chavarria and two other officers outside his home before being taken into custody Nov. 2.

Rayford was arrested on suspicion of evading arrest, resisting arrest and possession of marijuana.

Area family demands answers after Schertz police arrest man as he cries for help outside his home

Following the arrest, the Defenders requested the personnel files for officers Chavarria, Megan Fennesy and Danielle Apgar. Schertz police officials this week declined to release the files of any of the three officers and are instead seeking the attorney general’s opinion in an effort to withhold those records.

Converse police, however, turned over Chavarria’s personnel file Tuesday, revealing his discipline history during his two years and nine months serving that department.

Chavarria has also worked as a police officer for the UT Health Science Center, Southwest ISD and the city of Somerset in his law enforcement career dating back to 2013, Texas Commission on Law Enforcement records confirm.

Somerset officials said they no longer possessed Chavarria’s records because his employment there ended more than five years ago and his records “could be destroyed.” UT Health Science Center and Southwest ISD have yet to respond to the records requests.

Chavarria’s DWI arrest lacked probable cause, legal justification

On April 19, 2019, Chavarria responded to a call from a concerned citizen who observed a reckless driver traveling west on Loop 1604, according to the suspension record.

Chavarria met up with the caller, a United States Air Force law enforcement officer who claimed he had “busted more DWIs than you can shake a stick at.” The witness told Chavarria that the driver parked in the 100 block of Avenue E.

Chavarria and a second officer, identified as Senior Officer Thigpen, attempted to make contact with the woman by knocking on her door, according to the documents.

When she didn’t answer the door, Chavarria opened the door, announced himself as a Converse police officer, and told the woman she had to step outside.

“Moments later, a female came to the door, wearing a towel, and stated she had been in the shower,” according to the suspension document.

Chavarria “voiced his disagreement regarding the shower” and told her about the drunk driving allegation after allowing her to get dressed.

The confrontation turned physical as Chavarria grabbed her by the arm, preventing her from using her phone.

After taking part in a field sobriety test, the woman was handcuffed and placed in the back of a police vehicle, records show.

Chavarria thought he had enough evidence to arrest the woman and book her into the jail. Officials obtained a warrant to draw the woman’s blood, but when Chavarria went to book her into the jail, a prosecutor quickly rejected the charge “for lack of probable cause.”

The woman filed a complaint with the police department, and when officers reviewed the case, they found “no reason to believe that probable cause existed for this arrest or charge.”

The blood warrant affidavit also had “important facts omitted,” according to the document. Chavarria failed to note that he never observed the woman driving the car or that the witness did not identify the suspect.

The woman did not respond to a request for comment from the Defenders.

Chavarria defended his actions, claiming he led the agency in DWI arrests and that he is constantly “thinking of the safety of our citizens,” according to his documented response to the complaint.

“During the time I believe that what I was doing was the right thing,” Chavarria wrote. “What I did not want to happen was for me to do the very least, and intoxicated person to leave the house and hurt someone on our roadways.”

Chavarria, who admitted he made mistakes in that investigation, was ultimately suspended for two days without pay due to the wrongful arrest.

‘You better relax, or you’re going to get it next’

Chavarria is now the subject of an ongoing internal investigation at the Schertz Police Department for their handling of Zekee Rayford’s arrest. Apgar, Fennesy and Chavarria were all removed from patrol duty while the department conducts its investigation.

The officers said they attempted to stop Rayford after he drove through a red light off Schertz Parkway. They say he drove to the Wilson Preserve neighborhood instead of pulling over. Rayford’s attorneys say he was returning home from a night class.

The home security footage first shows Rayford standing in his driveway with his hands in the air as police point their service weapons at him. Then he quickly moves to the home’s front door, where a second camera shows the officers tackling him at the doorstep.

In the video, police can be heard telling Rayford that he was under arrest and to stop resisting. Officers were seen using a stun gun on Rayford as he lies on the ground, while another officer can be seen kneeing the teen repeatedly.

After about 30 seconds, the front door opens as police, still struggling with the suspect, tell Rayford’s family that he was being arrested for running from them. The family is heard in the footage confronting the officers over their use of force.

Chavarria replies to a family member, “You better relax, or you’re going to get it next. I promise you, you will.”

The Schertz Police Department refused the Defenders request to release body camera or dash camera footage of the arrest and are seeking an opinion from the attorney general. The department has released the incident report written by Chavarria, but it is heavily redacted.

“I was pretty scared. I was fearing for my life trying to get to the door,” Rayford said in the weeks after his arrest.

Rayford’s attorneys have said at least one of the officers may have a “checkered past.” Chavarria’s attorney, Robert McCabe, said Chavarria’s work history has “zero effect” on how the police department views his actions in this arrest.

“Further, this does not change the fact that Zekee Rayford unlawfully fled from officers both in his vehicle and on foot and refused to comply with their lawful and reasonable demands to yield to their authority once he was apprehended,” McCabe said.

The charges against Rayford were filed with the Guadalupe County Attorney’s Office. Officials there declined further comment but said they had given Schertz police approval to release the body camera footage of Rayford’s arrest.

Rayford’s family is asking the charges be dropped, the officers lose their jobs, and a full release of their body cam footage.

Zekee Rayford’s family and attorneys held a press conference Monday, two weeks after he was arrested in front of his home.

About the Authors:

Fares Sabawi has been a journalist in San Antonio for four years. He has covered several topics, but specializes in crime, courts, open records and data visualization.

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.