SAN ANTONIO – Hours after Bexar County Sheriff’s Deputy John Paul Garza was taken into custody Monday on allegations that he assaulted his spouse, Sheriff Javier Salazar revealed the attack was so violent that it left the woman’s clothes “soiled in blood.”
Garza, who was already in the process of being terminated for a separate family assault charge against the same woman in February, has now in all likelihood worked his final shift as a BCSO deputy.
But disciplinary paperwork referenced by Salazar this week and obtained by the KSAT 12 Defenders raises questions about why Garza was still working for the law enforcement agency the better part of the last decade.
In May 2013, a Bexar County Jail inmate informed the agency’s Professional Standards & Integrity division that Garza had assaulted him while walking him back to his cell six months earlier, leading the inmate to then strike Garza.
It was a different version of events than had been previously described to BCSO officials.
A subsequent investigation determined that not only had Garza used “unnecessary force” on the inmate but he had then lied during a polygraph test when asked about the incident, BCSO records show.
A proposed 30-day suspension for Garza was later reduced to 10 days following a grievance hearing and he remained with the agency, records confirm.
“The fact is we quite frequently find things like that, that in my estimation should have been handled differently years back,” said Salazar, during a virtual interview earlier this year.
Former Chief Deputy Manuel Longoria, who handled discipline under the previous two sheriffs, said via telephone Wednesday the length of time between the incident taking place and being reported to the agency, nearly six months, likely weakened the administrative case.
Salazar has repeatedly remarked this year that issues in deputies’ work histories were not properly dealt with five, 10 or even 15 years ago.
“I can say this definitively: the way we handle administrative investigations and criminal investigations involving deputies and public officials is worlds apart from the way they have been handled here, historically over the years,” said Salazar.
Showed up in full uniform
Garza is the latest BCSO deputy whose involvement in a high-profile incident has caused past discipline problems to rise to the surface.
After Deputy Jack “Jackie” Farmer was fired in mid-September for suggesting on Facebook that people should “lynch mob” a suspected mail thief, a review of his personnel file showed that he remained with BCSO despite a 2012 incident in which he interfered with a felony fraud case against his then-wife.
The woman, identified in BCSO and court records as Alisha Farmer, was accused months earlier of making fraudulent charges on two credit cards belonging to an elderly couple she was supposed to be caring for.
Alisha Farmer was also accused of stealing jewelry and cash from the elderly couple, BCSO records show.
Jack Farmer, Alisha’s then-husband, showed up at the home of a family member of the couple in full uniform and asked if he could pay back money in exchange for criminal charges not being filed, BCSO records show.
Jack Farmer also failed to notify the law enforcement agency investigating the case, the San Antonio Police Department, that he had information about the criminal offenses, according to records.
“Your attempt to influence the elderly complainants to not file criminal charges in lieu of restitution, while in full uniform, was unprofessional and brought discredit (to) the Sheriff’s Office,” suspension records for Jack Farmer state.
Jack Farmer was suspended five days for the incident, but after filing a grievance, his punishment was reduced to a three-day suspension, personnel records confirm.
“Just reading it you think ‘well gosh, to me that sounds pretty dangerously close to tampering with a witness,’ which is a criminal offense,” said Salazar.
Amadeo Ortiz, who was sheriff at the time of the incident, did not respond to a phone message and a Facebook message seeking comment.
Longoria said he brought the allegations against Jack Farmer to the district attorney’s office for direction, and was told at the time it did not rise to the level to be pursued criminally.
Longoria pointed out that Jack Farmer did not harass or intimidate the elderly victims, but instead inquired with one of their family members if he could pay restitution instead of criminal charges being filed.
Conduct unbecoming an officer
Deputy John A. Rodriguez, who shot and killed Damian Daniels after Rodriguez and other deputies struggled with the Army veteran outside his far-West Side home in late August, had previously been suspended by BCSO after he was arrested for family violence.
Though Salazar has previously said he was in awe of the restraint shown by the deputies who struggled with Daniels, it’s possible Rodriguez would have no longer worked for BCSO if Salazar had been sheriff at the time of Rodriguez’s 2013 arrest.
“We will quite frequently terminate somebody even though their criminal case is still ongoing,” said Salazar.
According to suspension paperwork, Rodriguez admitted to throwing an iPad in the direction of his wife as well as breaking two coffee tables and a television set.
Months after his arrest, however, prosecutors dismissed the charge at the request of the complainant, records show.
Rodriguez was then suspended for three days for conduct unbecoming an officer, according to his suspension paperwork.
Longoria, who recalled specific details of Rodriguez’s arrest, said the deputy would have likely been reinstated if fired because the criminal case did not move forward, forcing BCSO officials to instead settle for a short suspension.
Critics of Salazar’s approach to discipline have previously said that the current sheriff has taken on a mindset of deputies being guilty until proven innocent.
Salazar, meanwhile, said he is taking steps now to make BCSO a better agency in the future.