Months before controversial arrest, Schertz detective used false information to raid home of Zekee Rayford

Guadalupe Co. Attorney calls warrant ‘invalid,’ said he won’t accept any case based on ‘illegally obtained evidence’

A Schertz Police detective falsely claimed that a useable amount of marijuana was seen inside the home of Zekee Rayford to secure a search warrant in March, hours before law enforcement raided the property and months before the teen’s controversial arrest, according to multiple officials and records obtained by the KSAT 12 Defenders.

SCHERTZ, Texas – A Schertz Police detective falsely claimed that a useable amount of marijuana was seen inside the home of Zekee Rayford to secure a search warrant in March, hours before law enforcement raided the property and months before the teen’s controversial arrest, according to multiple officials and records obtained by the KSAT 12 Defenders.

The detective who wrote the warrant, Chris Martinez, is now the focal point of an internal investigation into the incident that launched late last month, after Schertz police officials said they were made aware of “additional discrepancies” in Martinez’s affidavit.

The target of the raid, according to the affidavit, was an unnamed white woman. No arrest stemmed from the search of the home.

That raid occurred about eight months before Schertz police officers repeatedly kneed and used a stun gun on Rayford while attempting to arrest him on the doorstep of the same home. Rayford was contacted by the officers in that incident after allegedly running a nearby red light.

Attorneys for Rayford said the three officers involved in the arrest used excessive force and have called for them to be terminated. The incident was captured by a doorbell camera and a camera installed near the home’s garage.

Police say the teen fled from them in his car and then resisted arrest, but the family said, "“It was unjust and uncalled for and threatening and a misuse of force. It just makes us feel unsafe in the community we live in.”

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

In his affidavit for the March search warrant, Martinez, who is also assigned to a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) task force, claimed he had personally witnessed a “hand-to-hand transaction” that is “common with drug dealers” in front of the home on Keanna Place.

After officers stopped a vehicle leaving the property, they found a useable amount of marijuana in a container on the floorboard of the vehicle, the warrant states.

Sources said Martinez contacted two employees of the Guadalupe County Attorney’s Office on March 16, but that both said their office could not sign off on the warrant because he had not obtained probable cause evidence sufficient to go inside the home and search it.

Martinez then contacted Guadalupe County Attorney David Willborn and, in the warrant sent to him, Martinez claimed a defendant cooperating with the drug investigation had observed a useable amount of marijuana inside the home within the past 24 hours.

Officials with Schertz PD now concede that statement from Martinez was inaccurate.

Schertz police officers executed the search warrant March 16, hours after Martinez was able to get the affidavit signed by a judge.

Schertz officials have not said what, if any, evidence was seized during the raid, but did confirm no charges would be filed because of Martinez’s error.

Willborn told the KSAT Defenders last week the warrant was invalid and that he wouldn’t accept any case based on illegally obtained evidence.

Schertz officials for months had been led to believe the false information about drugs being seen inside the home was included because of a clerical copy-and-paste error by Martinez.

Willborn, however, provided the department information on “additional discrepancies” in Martinez’s preparation of the affidavit on Nov. 25 and the department launched its official inquiry of the detective’s work on the case Nov. 30, Schertz officials said.

Linda Klepper, Schertz’s public affairs director, released a statement to KSAT that reads in part:

Attorneys representing Rayford were quick to condemn Martinez’s actions.

“What you have is a law enforcement officer who is sworn to tell the truth, because based on his representations, you are talking about infringing on civil rights of a person,” said attorney Artessia “Tess” House during a virtual interview with KSAT late last week.

Daryl K. Washington, a Dallas-based civil rights attorney who also represents Rayford, said a strong message needs to be sent by those officials now investigating Martinez.

“This officer falsified a document. Termination would not be enough in a case like this. This person needs to be criminally prosecuted,” said Washington during the same virtual interview with KSAT.

Sources told the Defenders Schertz Police officials have begun gathering formal statements from people contacted by Martinez about the warrant.

Guadalupe County District Clerk officials said the search warrant return was never filed with their office.

It is unknown if Martinez will be investigated for possible perjury, but Willborn said last week his office would not handle the case because he and members of his staff “would be fact witnesses in the case.”

“It’s not nearly something that’s an employment matter. We’re also talking about a crime. Under the Texas Penal Code, it’s a crime to perjure yourself. The fact he knew that he could shop around a warrant is concerning,” said House.

City of Schertz releases body cam footage of Zekee Rayford arrest

Schertz Police Department Chief Micheal Hansen (KSAT)

Schertz officials declined to make Chief Michael Hansen available for comment on Martinez, claiming Hansen is not currently participating in interviews.

Texas Commission on Law Enforcement records show that Martinez has worked for the Schertz Police Department since December 2006.

Dante Sorianello, assistant special agent in charge of the San Antonio office of the DEA, said the March raid was a Schertz Police Department operation and that the DEA was not involved in it.

The invalid warrant is the latest issue with the Schertz Police Department uncovered by the KSAT Defenders in the five weeks since officers arrested Rayford on Nov. 2.

Schertz police say they attempted to pull over Rayford for running a red light. Rayford did not pull over for roughly a mile until he pulled into his family’s driveway and walked to the front door with his hands raised. As Rayford knocked on the front door of his home and screamed for his father, Schertz police kicked, shocked and kneed him, according to Rayford family home surveillance footage.

Dashboard and body-worn camera footage released by the department late last month show officers following Rayford into his neighborhood before he gets out of his car and quickly moves to the front door of his home before being tackled by officers.

What we do and don’t know about Zekee Rayford’s arrest by Schertz police

Body camera footage of Zekee Rayford's arrest was released by the City of Schertz. (KSAT)

Rayford was charged with evading arrest, resisting arrest and possession of marijuana, Guadalupe County Jail records show.

Prosecutors last week confirmed they dropped the marijuana charge, however, because Schertz Police did not have consent to search Rayford’s car and conducted the search before they had the legal authority to do so.

Three charges against Rayford from the Nov. 2 incident remain pending.

One of the officers involved in the November arrest, Frank Chavarria, had a history of discipline problems while working with both the Converse and UT Health Science police departments, personnel records from each agency show.

Chavarria and the other officers involved in Rayford’s November arrest, Megan Fennesy and Danielle Apgar, have been removed from patrol while the Schertz Police Department conducts its investigation.

Schertz Mayor Ralph Gutierrez issued a statement on the day the body camera footage was released that the city was committed to doing what was right and that the right thing to do was to “be as transparent as we can.”

The statement, however, came three days after Schertz officials refused to release the personnel files of all three officers.

Officials have instead asked the state attorney general to allow them to withhold that information. Officials declined to make Gutierrez available, stating that he is also not currently participating in interviews.

Prosecutors drop marijuana charge against Zekee Rayford due to improper search

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:

Emmy-award winning reporter Dillon Collier joined the KSAT 12 Defenders in 2016. Dillon's investigative stories air weeknights on the Nightbeat. He provides restaurant health reports for KSAT's "Behind the Kitchen Door." Dillon is a two-time Houston Press Club Journalist of the Year and a Texas Associated Press Broadcasters Reporter of the Year.

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.