SCHERTZ, Texas – A Schertz Police detective who falsely claimed a useable amount of marijuana was seen inside the home of Zekee Rayford last year has avoided serious discipline in the case, according to internal affairs paperwork obtained by the KSAT 12 Defenders.
Corporal Chris Martinez will not be suspended for the incident and instead received an “employee coaching” session earlier this month, records show. That came after a lengthy investigation determined he violated a departmental rule covering conduct and behavior.
A more serious allegation against Martinez of untruthfulness was not sustained, the discipline paperwork shows.
Last March, a raid of Rayford’s home in the Northeast Side suburb was carried out hours after Martinez was able to get a judge to sign off on a search warrant affidavit that included the incorrect statement.
Martinez, who is also assigned to a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) task force, wrote in the affidavit last March that a confidential informant had seen a useable amount of marijuana inside a home on Keanna Place.
That claim, however, contradicted what Martinez had previously told two employees of the Guadalupe County Attorney’s Office. When discussing whether a warrant could be obtained to search the home, Martinez conceded to both employees that no contraband had been seen inside the residence, records show.
Both employees, one of whom was an assistant county attorney, said their office could not sign off on the warrant because Martinez had not obtained probable cause evidence sufficient to go inside the home and search it.
Martinez then contacted Guadalupe County Attorney David Willborn and claimed a defendant cooperating with the drug investigation had observed a useable amount of marijuana inside the home within the past 24 hours in a search warrant affidavit.
Willborn approved the warrant, a judge signed it, and hours later the Rayford home was raided, records show.
The following day Willborn contacted Martinez via cell phone. The detective admitted to the mistake contained in the warrant sent to Willborn and described the issue as a “cut-and-paste error,” records show.
Even though nearly 200 grams of edible marijuana brownies were seized during the raid, Willborn informed Schertz Police officials he would not accept any criminal charges from the case due to inaccurate information being included in the affidavit, records show.
In a text message sent to Willborn Martinez wrote that he felt horrible about the mistake.
“I promise you that’s not the normal,” wrote Martinez, according to internal affairs records.
In late January, a Schertz police captain assigned to investigate the error concluded that Martinez did not intentionally provide inaccurate information in order for investigators to gain access to the Rayford home.
“In my professional experience, this is not an uncommon practice for officers preparing a search warrant by including some paragraphs or statements recycled from a previous warrant,” wrote Schertz Police Captain Manny Casas.
After the Defenders asked Schertz officials how often its police officers copy and paste information from previous warrants, the city’s director of public affairs compared it to the issuing of a press release.
“Search warrants are in fact fairly uncommon in this jurisdiction and that is one reason a form from a previous affidavit may be reused. This is something that occurs when general ‘forms’ are used, and I believe this to what Captain Casas is referring to. Even a press release is generally created from a previous release where old information is replaced with new information. The heading and contact information are recycled from the previous form to save time. This would be an example of a more common practice. If done correctly, it does save time and effort for a more expedited and efficient submission. Like anything else, if proper proofreading protocols are not followed, unfortunate errors may occur,” wrote Schertz Director of Public Affairs Linda Klepper.
Schertz officials declined to make Chief Michael Hansen available for an interview for this story.
In his written report Casas recommended that Martinez take a training course for report writing that teaches the basics of proofreading and editing.
Martinez, in a written response to the internal affairs complaint, said late last year that drug surveillance outside the Rayford home was a “hasty operation.”
“My mistake was made unintentionally and was a result of trying to do too much without help,” wrote Martinez.
Martinez remains part of the DEA task force, an agency spokesman confirmed via email Monday.
Artessia “Tess” House, Rayford’s civil rights attorney, released the following statement Tuesday morning:
“The right to be protected against unreasonable searches and seizures is constitutionally safeguarded. An agency cannot proclaim to enforce the law on one end while disregarding the law on another. Likening the execution of a search warrant to a press release insults citizens’ intelligence. The public needs to know officers take their right to privacy seriously. If the community has to follow the rules, so do those agencies responsible for policing the community.”
Raid precedes violent arrest caught on camera
In November, eight months after the raid, Schertz police attempted to pull over the then-18 year old 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, stunned and kneed him, according to the Rayford family’s home surveillance footage.
Rayford was charged with evading arrest, resisting arrest and possession of marijuana.
Prosecutors in late November dismissed the marijuana charge after determining officers did not have consent to search Rayford’s car and conducted the search before they had the legal authority to do so.
In late December, Schertz officials announced that the three officers involved in Rayford’s violent arrest would not be suspended and instead would receive additional training.
While Rayford and his family alleged the officers violated the department’s policy on use of force and other rules of conduct, the investigation found that the officers only violated their duty to be “kind, courteous and patient.”
The three officers involved — Frank Chavarria, Megan Fennesy and Danielle Apgar — were returned to patrol duty early this year, officials previously said.