Deputy who shot Damian Daniels previously suspended for family violence, records show

Release of personnel files comes a day after BCSO refused to release body-worn camera footage in case

Deputy John Rodriguez
Deputy John Rodriguez (KSAT)

SAN ANTONIO – Personnel records released by the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office revealed past discipline issues for two of the three deputies who struggled with Damian Daniels before the combat veteran was shot and killed outside his far West Side home last month.

Daniels, 31, was fatally shot by deputies Aug. 25 after a mental health check escalated into a struggle in front his home in the 11000 block of Liberty Field.

John A. Rodriguez, Enrique Cepeda and Michelle Garriffa were previously identified by BCSO as the deputies who responded to the call. Rodriguez was identified as the deputy who fired the fatal shots.

Garriffa, a longtime detention officer who had moved to patrol less than a week before Daniels' death, was repeatedly investigated for fraternizing with inmates early in her BCSO career, according to a copy of her civil service file.

In July 2005, an evaluator said Garriffa, at the time a probationary officer, had “made vast improvements on her last probationary evaluation, however the same issues which cast a shadow of a doubt over her credibility and professionalism have resurfaced, causing yet another investigation into her fraternizing with inmates.”

The same evaluation, which Garriffa signed and described as fair, according to records, stated she needed to “evaluate her priorities and determine if the position of Detention Officer is right for her.”

The same appraisal stated that Garriffa “eludes to cooperation but leans more to deception or blurring of the truth.”

Garriffa’s evaluations, however, showed she repeatedly rated as above average during her probationary period.

Rodriguez, meanwhile, was cleared of criminal wrongdoing by a grand jury in 2011, a little over a year after shooting and killing a man, records show.

However, he was placed on leave and later suspended by BCSO in 2013 after being criminally charged with family violence.

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, 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.

Cepeda’s 109-page personnel file did not include any records of discipline issues.

Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar did not respond to a request for an interview for this story.

After pledging transparency, BCSO fights to block release of body cam video

The release of records comes the same week BCSO officials confirmed they are now seeking to withhold body camera footage showing Daniels' death, despite Salazar previously saying he planned to release at least some video of the shooting.

Salazar, who called himself a big proponent of transparency days after Daniels was killed, had previously released still images that he said show Daniels struggling with deputies.

Salazar previously said that, though the incident was tragic, deputies showed as much restraint as they could before resorting to deadly force on Daniels, who the sheriff said was suicidal.

Attorney Lee Merritt, who is representing Daniels' family, disputed that, saying that Daniels was paranoid and in need of help and that his family first called the Red Cross fearing that a law enforcement response would only escalate the situation.

The Daniels family has called on the sheriff’s office to release the body cam footage of the shooting.

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