After delay, arbitration resumes for SAPD officer fired for excessive force

Ofc. Andre Vargas argued he was targeted by disparate treatment from SAPD administration

SAN ANTONIO – Arbitration resumed Tuesday for a fired San Antonio police officer accused of using excessive force during a 2019 arrest.

The hearing for Officer Andre Vargas resumed at a downtown city office building, nearly six months after it was delayed due to time conflicts for attorneys representing Vargas and the city.

Vargas was terminated in June 2020 after SAPD internal affairs investigators determined he violated department rules covering conduct and behavior, treatment of prisoners and use of force.

He was among a group of SAPD officers who responded to a parking lot near Commercial Ave. and Grosvenor Blvd. on Nov. 26, 2019, for reports of a man trying to take a child from a woman.

Vargas, according to dash camera and body camera videos, was able to block suspect Matthew Garza’s vehicle as he attempted to leave the scene.

Vargas is heard on his own body camera calling Garza a “f---ing idiot” before driving after the suspect.

Vargas is then heard repeatedly yelling at Garza to “get the f--- out of the car!”

Vargas, throughout the footage, repeatedly cursed at Garza and insulted him, criticizing the suspect for attempting to leave the scene.

Garza was later charged with evading arrest with a vehicle.

He filed a formal complaint with SAPD against Vargas and a second officer, Michael Brewer, in late January 2020.

Brewer was indicted by a grand jury for unlawful restraint last year, but he was able to get the criminal charge dismissed in May.

Vargas was never criminally charged for the incident.

His attorney this summer argued that SAPD administration showed disparate treatment toward Vargas when deciding to suspend him indefinitely.

The arbitration strategy, which has been successfully used to get several other fired SAPD officers reinstated, suggests that the department terminates some officers while suspending others for similar rules violations.

The arbitration hearing of Vargas is scheduled to wrap up this week.

The independent third-party arbitrator will likely take months to review the case, meaning her decision will most likely not be released until sometime in 2024.

About the Author:

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.