WATCH: ‘Downfall:’ The story of ex-Constable Michelle Barrientes Vela, a KSAT 12 Defenders special

Barrientes Vela, former captain awaiting trial for felony perjury, other charges

SAN ANTONIOEditor’s note: This story is part of an investigative series about the criminal case against ex-Constable Michelle Barrientes Vela. The series culminated with “Downfall,” an hourlong special report that aired on KSAT 12 on March 25. Watch the full special above.

At first glance, the story of Michelle Barrientes Vela had all the trappings of a political fairy tale. Once an unpaid, reserve deputy at Bexar County Constable’s Office Precinct 2, Barrientes Vela became the elected Constable after winning the 2016 election. She finished second among five Democratic candidates in the March primary that year, then won the run-off held two and a half months later. That November she captured more than 66% of the vote on her way to joining a shortlist of women to serve as constable in Bexar County.

That’s the way it began, but not how it ended. Barrientes Vela’s tale is an age-old story of the rise and then the fall of an elected official whose infamy arrived long before she was removed from office.

Only one journalist was there from the beginning: KSAT 12 Investigative Reporter Dillon Collier. See what he uncovered on the KSAT 12 Defenders investigative special, “Downfall,” in the video player above.


Collier found what began as a trickle of issues at Precinct 2 eventually became a three-year flood of stories. Personnel problems morphed into claims of false arrests, perjury, tampering with evidence, and other alleged crimes for which Barrientes Vela now awaits trial.

In the end, largely because of Collier’s tenacity and reporting, Barrientes Vela and a member of her command staff found themselves under criminal indictment and out of their jobs.

The Defender's Dillon Collier joins GMSA@9 to discuss the KSAT's TV special "Downfall: The story of ex-constable Michelle Barrientes Vela" which airs Thursday at 9 p.m.
The Defender's Dillon Collier joins GMSA@9 to discuss the KSAT's TV special "Downfall: The story of ex-constable Michelle Barrientes Vela" which airs Thursday at 9 p.m.

In our one-hour program, you’ll hear how the former constable maintains her innocence and how she believes the investigation of her office and her subsequent arrest are really the result of her attempts to “clean up” corruption among other Bexar County elected officials.

But you’ll also learn about evidence that shows Barrientes Vela misused taxpayer funds and county money, used her deputies to help solve problems for members of her family, and claims that she pressured members of the public by using her position, sometimes for cash payments.

Reporter Dillon Collier also explores an ongoing war that was happening inside Precinct 2, what some called a multi-year harassment campaign waged by Barrientes Vela against two deputies.

Collier also talks with the current Precinct 2 Constable Leticia Vazquez, who says the years of chaos there had a considerable impact on the staff.

“Downfall” includes an in-depth look at Barrientes Vela’s upcoming felony trial, through interviews with legal and public policy experts as well as her criminal defense team and the former constable herself.


A timeline of Michelle Barrientes Vela’s controversial time in office

The most unusual acts of Constable Michelle Barrientes Vela during her troubled tenure

Barrientes Vela, former captain plan aggressive defense at abuse of office trial

Four people tied up in Michelle Barrientes Vela’s scandals

18 months after Barrientes Vela’s removal, new constable still helping traumatized deputies

10 controversies surrounding embattled Precinct 2 Constable Michelle Barrientes Vela

About the Authors:

David Raziq is the executive producer for the Defenders investigative team.

Emmy-award winning reporter Dillon Collier joined the KSAT 12 Defenders in 2016. Dillon's investigative stories air weeknights on the Nightbeat. He provides restaurant health reports for KSAT's "Behind the Kitchen Door." Dillon is a two-time Houston Press Club Journalist of the Year and a Texas Associated Press Broadcasters Reporter of the Year.