Witness says Barrientes Vela and ‘her entourage’ intimidated him at county park

Defense says Easter 2019 incident at Rodriguez Park was a misunderstanding

SAN ANTONIO – A San Antonio man who rented pavilions at Rodriguez Park for decades of special events testified Wednesday that former Bexar County Pct. 2 Constable Michelle Barrientes Vela and other uniformed deputies intimidated him and his family as they prepared to celebrate the Easter holiday in 2019.

“There’s no reason for four officers to come up on you and your family,” testified Jesus Reyes, a truck driver who had rented a pavilion at the West Side park for Easter for 15 years.

Reyes said family members trying to set up on Easter morning were interrupted by Barrientes Vela and other deputies demanding payment in exchange for providing security.

Reyes said after he arrived at the pavilion he was told it was in his best interest to pay the money.

“I didn’t want to go any further than that, so I just told my wife, ‘let’s go get money and give them whatever we can afford,’” Reyes testified.

Reyes said he pulled out $300 from a nearby gas station and was able to pay for six hours of security before he and his family were forced to leave the park.

Barrientes Vela is accused of fabricating security payment logs for the park, which sits inside the precinct she presided over as constable for 33 months before leaving office in late 2019.

Her defense, for the second day in a row, downplayed the Easter 2019 incident and said the then-constable had been told Reyes’ reservation was canceled and that the space was available to rent.

Reyes confirmed he had not paid for security even though he had alcohol present at all of his past Easter celebrations at the park, meaning he had likely been able to avoid paying thousands of dollars in security fees.

WATCH: Highlights from Day 2 of the Michelle Barrientes Vela trial

Corporal Mark Olivares, of the Harlandale Independent School District, was in charge of managing security at the county parks when the 2019 incident took place.

He testified to receiving a call from a private number days before Easter, from someone later identified as Barrientes Vela.

“Very aggressive. When I answered the phone she didn’t directly introduce herself. She said, ‘hey, I don’t know who you think you are coming to this park over here. I’m in charge of this park,’” Olivares testified.

Olivares said he was told by Barrientes Vela that her deputies would work security at the park on Easter but that she would not comply with county rules on turning in paperwork after security events.

Current and former Precinct 2 deputies testified Wednesday afternoon about the process of working “side jobs” under Barrientes Vela while she was in office.

A deputy who now works for the Von Ormy Police Department testified that he was paid the correct amount for security work at Rodriguez Park on Easter 2019, in cash by Barrientes Vela.

One deputy testified she was also paid cash by Barrientes Vela after being told by the agency’s chief deputy to tear up a check she was set to receive from the county auditor for security work she completed.

The deputy testified that Barrientes Vela shortchanged her what she was owed by about $160.

Barrientes Vela’s attorneys, however, showed that the deputy had worked two hours or less the day in question and was therefore paid an appropriate amount.

Barrientes Vela, who also faces multiple counts of official oppression, faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted of tampering with evidence.

Her trial comes more than two and a half years after she and her captain, Marc D. Garcia, were indicted by a grand jury on a list of public corruption charges.

Garcia is currently awaiting trial for aggravated perjury.

Barrientes Vela’s trial will resume at 10:30 a.m. Thursday and is scheduled to last for at least another week.

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About the Authors

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.

Joshua Saunders is an Emmy award-winning photographer/editor who has worked in the San Antonio market for the past 20 years. Joshua works in the Defenders unit, covering crime and corruption throughout the city.

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